Alewives, like the one pictured above, were first discovered in Lake Champlain in July, 2004. Columnist Howard Hammond believes some lake users and politicians overreact to the presence of non-native species.
Recently, Mark Malchoff of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant spoke before the Essex County Board of Supervisors concerning the possibility of the invasion of other species he finds disturbing, namely hydrilla and the round goby. He gave his opinion that they could cause “economic havoc.” Please bring on the havoc! I recently returned from 10 days of fishing two bass tournaments on the western basin of Lake Ontario, an area filled with hydrilla, milfoil and round gobies. Believe me the bass are bigger and more plentiful than Lake Champlain. There were far more 20-pound sacks of smallmouth brought to the scales by the same fisherman who competed on Lake Champlain three weeks ago. And it’s strange that not once did I encounter any Spiny Waterfleas.
Before you get up in arms about invasive species here are some facts. Brown trout and rainbows are non-native species stocked by the DEC. Lake trout are not natural to the lake and the common carp has been here my entire life. In fact until a few years ago if you bought a fish sandwich at McDonalds it was probably made with common carp meat. There are pluses and minuses to every situation, but before we throw out the bath water let’s make sure the baby isn’t in the tub.
I really tire of the politicians wanting their names in the press by taking a stand that seems popular without the real facts. This great country was shaped by all forms of ecological changes. Some of these non-native aquatic creatures may just improve the fishery.
Howard Hammonds is a guide and experienced bass fisherman living in Westport. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.