Anglers are believed to be responsible for the recent introduction of an invasive species into another popular Pennsylvania waterway.
The state Department of Environmental Protection and Fish and Boat Commission recently confirmed the presence of round gobies in Lake LeBoeuf, near the town of Waterford in Erie County. A natural lake approximately 70 acres in size and popular among anglers, Lake LeBoeuf empties into French Creek, an ecologically intact fishery that has been called one of America's "last great places."
Round gobies are notorious for their voracious eating habits. They target bottom-dwelling fish, including rare darter and minnow species, and can devastate gamefish populations.
The round goby has a big head with frog-like raised eyes, a mottled olive-brown body, fused pelvic fins, a black spot on the rear of the first dorsal fin and can grow to 10 inches. It is among 10 non-native invasive fish species that anglers are prohibited from possessing under state fishing and boating regulations. Anglers found in possession of live round gobies can be fined.
"We are asking anglers at Lake LeBoeuf to do their part to protect our natural resources by following the law and not transporting round gobies from this or any other site," said John Arway, Fish and Boat executive director. "Our goal is to prevent them from being introduced into other inland waters such as French Creek, [which] contains numerous threatened and endangered fish and freshwater mussel species and is one of the most ecologically diverse waterways in the Commonwealth. We want to do everything we can to protect it by preventing the spread of the round goby."
Fish and Boat asks anglers who catch a round goby in Pennsylvania waters (not including the Fairview gravel pit, Lake Erie and Lake LeBoeuf) to immediately kill it, freeze it and report the catch at 814-474-1515 or http://fishandboat.com/ais-reporting.htm, which includes a field where a photo of the fish can be posted.
The state's Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers campaign encourages anglers to:
■ Check for and remove plants, mud and aquatic life from fishing gear and boats before leaving any body of water.
■ Drain water from boat, live well, bilge and bait bucket before transporting a boat.
■ Clean boat and gear with hot water, or dry everything for at least several days.
■ Do not move any plants or animals from one waterway to another.
■ Do not use round gobies as bait.