The Goby and the Lamprey

Standing along the Duluth harbor in view of the Duluth lift bridge last Thursday afternoon, I found myself doing something rather out-of-the ordinary – fishing.

Oh, fishing is nothing new to me – it was the location. I’d never before wet my line in one of the Great Lakes.

Later that evening I learned that trout, walleye and northern pike are among the usual catch in the freshwater lake, but I didn’t catch any of those.

Instead, I was fishing for Round Goby.

Round Goby caught at Duluth.

I’d never heard of Goby fish before and, frankly, after catching my first one, I wasn’t too keen on letting another one bite my hook. They’re kind of ugly.

Now, after writing that, I’m wondering just what fish is pretty. Certainly, it isn’t the carp and bullheads that seem to dominate our prairie lakes here in Nobles County.

Actually, blue gills and pumpkinseed are rather pretty, and I’m sure walleye are too – even prettier if I could actually catch one of them!

Anyway, back to the Goby.

The Goby is an invasive species in the Great Lakes, brought to our wonderful freshwater Lake Superior by ships dumping ballast water they carried inland from the saltwater oceans for several seasons. The Goby easily adapted to the freshwater lakes and now brings disdain to the fishermen – much like the carp do to us when we hook them here in southwest Minnesota.

My Goby catch.

At least the Goby are smaller – reaching only about eight inches in length. Certainly, they’re not big enough to bend a hook or snap a fishing line like those hideous carp!

I caught two Goby fish on Thursday – both of which could be considered bait because they were so small. (Note: It is illegal to use Goby as bait, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website.)

Also according to the DNR, Goby are aggressive, bottom-dwelling fish. As someone pointed out to me on Thursday, they have a scallop-shaped pelvic fin that can actually be used like a suction cup. (I was told they use the fin to climb rocks and work their way up a waterfall.)

So far, Goby have not been found in Minnesota’s inland waters, and the DNR is hoping it stays that way. In addition to the Great Lakes, they have been found in the Mississippi River basin. The Goby compete with native fish for food and habitat – and eat the eggs and young of native fish, their primary reason for not being liked by fishermen, I’m sure.

If you have a chance to get to Duluth this summer, I’d recommend making a stop at the Great Lakes Aquarium. In a few weeks, their new display featuring invasive species is targeted to open. In addition to seeing what a Goby looks like, you can also view the sea lamprey. We had a sneak peek at the lamprey on Thursday, and I can easily say I don’t ever want to catch one of them on my hook either – imagine an eel, or a thick snake that lives in the water. Yuck!

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