I am from a town with two lakes, Lake Michigan and its one of its tributaries Muskegon Lake. They have been a fishing destination for the most part of my life. As an avid fisherman, I can say that fishing in Lake Michigan or a tributary of Lake Michigan in Muskegon Lake angers me when compared with other lakes. The problem I have comes through a bothersome, ample species: The Goby.
When fishing in Lake Michigan or its tributaries around Muskegon with a live worm, I don’t have much fun. I w set my fishing pole in the water briefly and within seconds I will have a tiny Goby (only about an inch or two long) on my line, which is no fun to reel in. They never stop biting and seem to be endless. You cannot eat or clean them because they are very tiny. Goby are very pesky because they are so small, hard to hook, and often steal my bait. We are supposed to kill every single Goby caught.
The Gobies gained access into the Great Lakes and its tributaries in 1990. They came from the Black and Caspian Sea areas of Eastern Europe. They got to the Great Lakes via big ships and vessels. Gobies look as portrayed, “Round Gobies can reach up to 10 inches in length as adults, but usually they are less than 7 inches long in the Great Lakes. Females and immature male round Gobies are a mottled gray and brown color. Spawning males turn almost solid black. Round Gobies have a soft body and a large, rounded head with eyes that protrude near the top” (USGS).
So what is the problem with Gobies and why are they such a big deal? I personally have noticed that they spawn like crazy, eat other species food and eggs, and survive in almost all climates. To prove my observation “Once round gobies arrive they can become the dominant fish species. Round Gobies prefer rocky, shallow areas, but have flourished in a variety of habitat types. Regardless of the habitat, round Gobies are very aggressive fish that compete with native fishes for food and space. Anglers who fish in areas with round Gobies often find that the gobies steal their bait and appear to be the only type of fish in the area”(USGS). Gobies make it hard for fish close to extinction to survive and affect the population of other fish previously thriving.
http://www.glsc.usgs.gov/main.php?content=research_invasive_goby&title=Invasive%20Fish0&menu=research_invasive_fish (Round Goby: An Exotic fish in the Great Fact Sheet)
I remember the early crisp mornings waking up grabbing my fishing pole and heading to Lake Michigan to try and catch that trophy fish I’ve always wanted to catch. As it turns out I never caught that fish but I am still trying to reel in that trophy fish from our natural beauty we call Lake Michigan. But my childhood dreams could end up being crushed by a flying fish that smacks me right in the face! I’m talking about the Asian carp, an evasive species that is a danger to the Great Lakes Region. The Asian carp was introduced into the U.S. in the 1970’s to filter pond water in fish farms in Arkansas when a flood allowed them to escape and establish reproducing populations in the wild by the early 1980’s. These evasive species originated in Arkansas and now have been found in 23 states and are currently in the Illinois River in the direction of the Great Lakes.
A lot of you might be thinking “what can a little fishy do that could harm our Lakes?” Well the problem with Asian carp is they are a voracious filter feeder, meaning they consume up to 20% of their body weight per day in plankton (small floating organisms that are food for fish and other organisms, essential to our native fish) and these carp can grow up to be 100 lbs. and will strip away all of our natural species food supply, starving them into dwindling numbers. These fish also are known for their jumping ability when a motor boat is running. The sound of the motor drives them hurling out of the water and at boaters causing injury to people. The carp have no natural predators in North America and they lay half a million eggs each time they spawn. The U.S. Geological survey found 22 rivers in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes that would provide suitable spawning habitat for Asian carp and the temperature of the great lakes are within the fish’s native climate range making the great lakes a perfect home for them. If this evasive species destroys our native fish we lose a big portion of our food supply and tons of fisherman will go out of business because the asian carpet is an unwanted fish due to its horrible taste
These fish almost seem unstoppable, so how are we to stop them? Well a few proposals have emerged over the years but the U.S. Army Corps of engineers is working on a few solutions that may not be introduced till 2015, but currently have emplaced and maintain three electric barriers to prevent this evasive species from enter the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Council has been in a debate over closing the waterways but Chicago is against the idea due to the amount of business that travels through the waterways and the potential of flooding to occur. I feel that we should continue with the electric barriers for now, but we should add more barriers in tributaries of the Great Lakes and we should bump up the voltage to guarantee that they do not enter. At the same time we can have people set up charter fishing trips where they can hunt the carp with bow and arrows, harpoons, and nets while we wait until the U.S. Army of Engineers have discovered a more promising solution.
While many people first look at the dangers of climate change that directly affect people, how about the indirect issues involved? I’m talking about the ecosystem – most specifically, the fishing system. Michigan’s great lakes are a source of jobs for thousands of people that live in this area. Many of those jobs revolve around fishing in some way, shape or form. Whether it’s taking care of fisheries, going out on a boat, serving up fresh fish at a restaurant or even supplying the materials to do so; the fish are important. However, as climate change effects our entire planet, Michigan is starting to heat up as well. Projections show that this could mean an increase of about 4 degrees year around, drastically effecting a sensitive ecosystem.
When the temperature takes a change for the hotter, fish and other wildlife have to change their ways – or die. Although we think that most water areas are around the same temperature, fish are very sensitive in their habitats. When there is a change in water temperature, many cold-water species (such as bass and bluegill) have to move northward. Other species that are less adaptive often face death when their ecosystem is disrupted. Also, the plants that feed the fish and keep the water ecosystem intact can also be at risk as the temperatures rise. When these plants become endangered, the fish that rely on them so much have to relocate before it’s too late. Another problem that fish face are invasive species that are brought in with the warm weather. One of the most infamous is the “Snakehead”, which is capable of breathing out of water for extended periods of time and adapting to the warmer waters. Invasive species have been shown to have disastrous effects. How many times have you cut your hand or foot on a zebra mussel? Well, that’s an invasive species, and they are damaging to boats, fish and plants as well.
Climate change is a serious issue to both fish and humans. If we don’t protect our waters how can we expect to protect ourselves?