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June 23, 2004

Invasive round goby confirmed in Grand Traverse Bay

Record-Eagle staff writer

      GREILICKVILLE - It's an ugly, mean nuisance that doesn't belong in this part of the world, but the round goby has come to Grand Traverse Bay.
      The invasive exotic fish, first discovered in the St. Clair River in 1990, has spread throughout the Great Lakes but has not been reported in the bay until Tuesday.
      A group of students on West Bay with the Inland Seas Education Association netted some small gobies in Bowers Harbor.
      "It's kind of neat when we are doing something with the kids and they find something new," said Tom Kelly, Inland Seas director. "It shows them they're doing real science."
      The gobies are common in Lake Charlevoix and Little Traverse Bay, Kelly said.
      "They've actually taken quite a long while to get here, but chances are they've been here for a while," he said.
      Once established, gobies can displace native fish such as sculpin and perch, eat native fish eggs and young, take over optimal habitat, spawn multiple times per season and survive in poor quality water, according to Michigan Sea Grant.
      "Once they get established you'll see less diversity of other fish," Inland Seas biologist Colleen Masterson said.
      The gobies are not edible. While they can grow to 10 inches, Masterson said they rarely see them larger than six inches.
      The greatest impacts are on sculpin and logperch. Larger game fish will feed on gobies, and muskellunge are said to prefer them.
      They're a nuisance to fisherman, said Mark Breederland, Sea Grant extension agent in Traverse City.
      "They are a very aggressive, bait-stealing fish," he said. "They clean off your worm before walleye get a chance."
      Charter fisherman Pat Cole said he hasn't seen any impact yet from gobies in East Bay. Cole runs off a long list other invasive species and their effect on the bay, but said he hasn't encountered any gobies yet.
      Gobies, like zebra mussels, are native to the Caspian and Black seas region and were introduced in the Great Lakes though the exchange of ship ballast water.
      Gobies do have one redeeming quality. They eat zebra mussels.
      "Not enough that I would guess anybody would notice, though," Kelly said.

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