The problem in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain is that the their “sea” lampreys never actually do go down to salt water to attack other fish. The lampreys arrived in those big lakes decades ago through human-built locks and canals, and have become happy with a strictly freshwater life cycle. (And no, lampreys don’t attack humans in salt water or fresh water.)
Once they reach the adult vampire stage, they go after trout, whitefish and other freshwater species that never adapted to that kind of predation. To save those valuable fish stocks, state and federal governments have engaged in a ruthless campaign of eradication, developing lamprey-specific poisons.
Most fishermen in Connecticut waters are anti-lamprey because of all the bad stuff they’ve heard coming out of the Great Lakes, and Kynard says they simply don’t realize that our lampreys give up their vampirish ways once they come home.
Kynard says he’s had “some serious – and I mean serious” encounters with fishermen he’s stopped from beating up on lampreys.
Gephard says he once had to publicly chastise a fishing magazine columnist who proudly wrote a piece “praising himself” for killing lampreys in a Connecticut river.
Despite that anti-lamprey bias among fishermen, lamprey numbers are continuing to rise. One reason why is that “no one is trying to harvest them,” says Gephard.
That could change if folks on this continent ever catch on to how good lampreys can taste.
“There’s a big fishery for them in Norway,” explains Kynard, “and I’ve eaten them here.”
Kynard, with a little help from a Native American fisherman from Oregon, developed his own lamprey recipe.
Chop a lamprey into good-sized chunks (don’t worry about bones, there aren’t any), soak for about 30 minutes in really, really salty water, and then throw ‘em on the grill.
“They’re delicious,” he says of our most disrespected fish. “I was just blown away.”
What’s not to love? Vampires, after all, are now media pop stars, and the ones on TV probably don’t even make good compost or taste as nice as our lampreys.
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