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Repelling the invader
A delicacy to some, lamprey still a threat to Great Lakes


05/31/07 By Elizabeth Shaw Flint Journal [email protected] • 810.766.6311

ROGERS CITY - For more than 50 years, researchers at the Hammond Bay Biological Station have been doing battle with sea lamprey - an invasive species that nearly wiped out the Great Lakes commercial fishery in the 1950s and one that still poses a serious threat to whitefish, lake trout and other crucial fish species.

The last thing they ever expected was to serve up the jawless, bloodsucking parasites for the Queen of England's lunch.

But that's exactly what they did in 2002, when Hammond Bay was asked to ship a picnic cooler of live lamprey to Gloucester, England, for the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

"We thought it was pretty funny, but you're not going to turn a request like that down," chuckled station supervisor Roger Bergstedt, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher.

Every year, the U.S. and Canada jointly spend $14 million to control the nasty-looking aquatic invaders that have been wreaking havoc in the Great Lakes since gaining full access through the Welland Canal in 1919.

But lamprey apparently are in short supply in Gloucester, where lamprey pie was a medieval delicacy traditionally served to royalty on special occasions.

"We routinely ship them live all over the world for research, so we're used to it. But of course, we would only send the finest," joked Bergstedt. "We picked out a couple dozen of the best and oxygen-packed them in a 48-quart picnic cooler."

Hammond Bay's usual work is a little less colorful, but a lot more important to the health of the Great Lakes.

Funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the USGS station works with university researchers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Ongoing lab and field work there has led to effective lamprey control methods ranging from electric barriers blocking adults from spring spawning streams to larvae-killing lampricides.

As a result, lamprey populations have been reduced 90 percent in many regions. Wild lake trout are reproducing successfully in Lake Superior and are "right on the brink" of doing so in Lake Huron, the worst of the lakes 10 years ago.

But the battle is far from won, warned Bergstedt. There still are too many fish killed by lamprey to support a vibrant commercial fishery in Lake Huron. More worrisome, lamprey appear to be on the rise again in lakes Michigan and Superior.

"I firmly believe if we lost control of the lamprey, we'd lose our predatory fish species again, resulting in a cascading effect to everything else related to that loss," he said.

Cutting edge controls

Electric barriers and other mechanical controls have helped block upstream migration in many rivers - but anglers and other critics worry they also interfere with the migration of sports fish, such as steelhead.

Recent efforts have focused on benign controls that target lamprey without impacting anything else in the environment.

The sterile male release program began in 1992, in which adult males are trapped and chemically sterilized, then released into spawning streams where they mate and die like salmon.

Their unproductive matings help cut down the number of new lamprey eventually returning to Lake Huron to feed on lake trout, whitefish and other critical fish.

This year, researchers began a trial release of sterilized females. If successful, the release could be applied in select small streams as another way to outcompete sexually productive lamprey.

It's not as effective as male sterilization, since it requires a much higher ratio of females to males to be effective, Bergstedt said.

"But every year we capture 30,000-40,000 females in the traps that are essentially just disposed of. This is a way to get something out of it."

The most promising new work involves artificial pheromones developed by scientists at the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University.

Hammond Bay researchers now are field-testing synthetic migratory pheromones that mimic chemical cues released by lamprey larvae to guide adults to good spawning streams. Other field tests are using synthetic mating pheromones that mimic those released by males to attract females when both are ready to spawn.

"We don't know exactly how we're going to use them yet, but you can see there's real potential for mischief using these," said Bergstedt, noting that the goal is to have some implementation underway by 2010.

With all the research being done, it's anyone's guess what might be next in lamprey control innovations.

But it probably won't be lamprey pie.

124 Posts
I think a large mug of beer will be required to wash it down..............:corkysm55



Pastry dough for nine-inch pie crust
1 pound eel, catfish, or other fish filets
1/2 C brown bread crumbs (1/3 C if blood is used)
1/4 C wine vinegar (2T if blood is used)
1/4 C fresh eel or fish blood (optional)
1/4 C dry wine
1/4 tsp. each cinnamon and black pepper
Salt to taste
1 C sweet wine
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
3 slices firm white bread
1 T brown sugar, or to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Line a pie pan with the crust, and put it in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes to harden it. Remove it, and reduce oven temperature to 350°.

3. In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, vinegar, dry wine, cinnamon, salt and pepper (and blood if it is used).

4. Place the eels or fish in the pie crust, and pour the sauce over them. Cover the pie with heavy aluminum foil, with a few holes poked in it. Put the pie in the oven, and bake it for half an hour to forty-five minutes, or until the eels or fish are done. Remove it, and allow it to cool.

5. Remove the foil from the pie, and carefully remove the eels or fish from the pie, and arrange them on a serving dish.

6. In a saucepan, over low heat, combine half of the sweet wine with the ginger and brown sugar. Carefully pour the sauce remaining in the bottom of the pie crust into the saucepan. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and simmer, stirring frequently, for about five minutes.

7. Line the bottom of the pie crust with the slices of white bread, and pour over them the remaining sweet wine. Then pour the hot syrup over the bread and wine, and serve the sops in the crust, and the eels or fish separately.

Serves six to eight.


This pie is simply the container in which the eel (or fish) is baked; it is removed from the crust for serving, but then a sop of bread and spiced wine is put in the empty crust, and that is served separately. The sauce for this dish is similar to the blood sauce for fish, Sauce Pour Lamprey, but I have adapted it so that the blood is optional. Feel free to add it if you have access to fish blood. I also cover the pie with aluminum foil to bake, rather than a second crust, since the cover needs to be removed to get the eels (or fish) out anyway. I add sugar to the wine sops, which helps a great deal.

Lamprays Bake is featured in Servise on a Fisshe Day

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Lamprays Bake © 2002 Rudd Rayfield | This page © 2002 James L. Matterer
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