Researchers Seek Help from Lake Champlain Anglers

BURLINGTON – Researchers at the University of Vermont (UVM) need the help of Lake Champlain anglers 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 September 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, email hginfish@dartmouth.edu.

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, UVM 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 email that to fishtag@uvm.edu. 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 UVM 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 Futia at fishtag@uvm.edu or Kris Stepenuck, Lake Champlain Sea Grant Program, at kstepenu@uvm.edu.