Jeffery Sanford was overjoyed for obvious reasons after his recent catch of a 19.36-pound lake trout in the Vermont portion of Lake Champlain.

“I just got my first boat this year, and it was my first time out alone,” Sanford told the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “It hit on my first cast of the day.”

The massive trout set a size record for a lake that sits in portions of Vermont, New York, and Quebec, Canada. But what also stood out was that the fish bore no scars caused by sea lampreys, which points to the success of a long-term effort to control the nuisance species.

“Jeff’s fish is the largest lake trout from Lake Champlain since the department started keeping fish records in 1969,” said Shawn Good, a Fish and Wildlife biologist. “There have been much larger lake trout caught in other Vermont waters, but this Champlain fish is a big deal.”

Lake Champlain has had a long history of sea lamprey predation on lake trout, brown trout, landlocked Atlantic salmon, sturgeon, and other species. The eel-like “vampire fish” latch onto prey with sucker-like jaws and chew their flesh with razor-sharp teeth.

RELATED: Record Yellowstone cutthroat trout caught after river chase

The abundance of these parasitic fish in Lake Champlain has resulted in lower growth, smaller size, and lower life expectancies of game fish species. This has resulted in decreased fishing opportunities.

An effort to control the sea lamprey population, under the direction of the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative, began in 1990 and appears finally to be showing results.

“We’re seeing lower overall wounding rates on many of these fish, and the fact that anglers are catching older, larger lake trout, salmon, and other fish species is proof that continued long-term sea lamprey control is working,” Good said.

Sanford’s 36.5-inch lake trout, hooked with a jig at a depth of 100 feet, is the new species leader in the ongoing Lake Champlain’s International Basin Derby.

Tournament director Elizabeth Ehlers told the Fish and Wildlife Department that larger fish have been entered in recent years.

“Over the past 10 years, we have seen several record-breaking fish in cold, cool and warm-water species divisions,”  Ehlers said.

The sea lamprey control effort – using lampricide treatments – is ongoing this fall in four tributaries that contain spawning sea lamprey populations.

–Image showing Jeffery Sanford with his lake trout is courtesy of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department; image showing lake trout with sea lampreys is generic

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here