By Kris Stepenuck
Attention Lake Champlain anglers: University of Vermont researchers need your help this summer with two important studies.
The first, in partnership with Dartmouth College, measures mercury concentrations in sport fish including walleye, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, lake trout and white perch. This survey is conducted every five years in collaboration with the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
Its purpose is to assist scientists in understanding how changing environmental conditions impact mercury levels in fish. The information also helps inform consumers about healthy eating choices as eating too many lake-caught fish with high mercury levels may cause neurological damage.
Lake Champlain boat launch stewards are collecting fish samples Thursday through Monday until Sept. 5. Daytime hours vary from site to site.
Anglers may donate whole fish or fish muscle tissue and will be asked to indicate the section of the lake where the fish was caught. Information about the study can be found at site.uvm.edu/hginfish, which includes an interactive map showing the GPS locations of boat launch areas where samples will be collected. To learn more, send an email.
The second study tracks lake trout. This native species disappeared from Lake Champlain around 1900 and only recently has shown signs of recovery due to annual stocking, which began in the mid-1970s.
For this study, University of Vermont researchers implanted acoustic transmitters into lake trout to collect data. These small black devices relay a coded signal to receivers placed around the lake, providing information such as the location and depth of a fish, along with the water temperature when it swims past a receiver.
Anglers can help by checking for an external, numbered pink tag on the belly of any lake trout they catch as these fish have been outfitted with a transmitter. Before releasing, they should record the number and submit it in an email. If harvested, they should retain the internal, black transmitter and contact the researchers at the same email to arrange for retrieval.
Data from this study, conducted by University of Vermont doctoral student Matt Futia and supported by Lake Champlain Sea Grant, will help guide restoration efforts for lake trout as well as contribute to public education about this popular sport fish species. If you have questions, contact Matt Futia or Kris Stepenuck.
(Kris Stepenuck, extension leader and associate director of the University of Vermont Lake Champlain Sea Grant, develops, implements and oversees its outreach activities.)