Lake Champlain Alewife Die-off
Posted on 04/20/2015
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Media Contacts: Brian Chipman, 802-879-5697; Shawn Good,
802-786-3863; Tom Jones, 802-793-6781

Lake Champlain Alewife Die-off

MILTON, Vt – Large numbers of small fish called alewives are washing up on the shores of Lake Champlain in Milton and Georgia.  State fisheries biologists from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department say it is an example of the kind of problems a non-native invasive species can cause. 

First documented in Lake Champlain in 2005, alewives have since been found throughout most of the lake. 

"Unfortunately, dead alewife washing up on the shores of Lake Champlain following a winter die-off is now a common occurrence," said State Fisheries Biologist Shawn Good. “Alewives are an exotic fish species native to the Atlantic Ocean, and they are not well adapted to winters in freshwater lakes such as Lake Champlain.  They are highly susceptible to fluctuations in water temperature that occur in the winter and are easily killed when this happens."

Good says dead alewives tend to stay preserved for long periods of time in cold water, but as ice cover melts in the spring, they float to the surface and wash up on shore in large numbers.   

"This is exactly why it is illegal to move fish from one water to another or to introduce new species to Vermont lakes,” said Good.  “While some anglers may think introducing a new fish species to their favorite lake or pond will provide a new fishing opportunity, or provide food for game fish already inhabiting the waterbody, the reality is that non-native fish introductions almost always have unwanted, negative consequences.”

Good says anglers should be aware of the risks involved with introducing new species to new waters.

"The great fishing we enjoy today could be gone tomorrow if aquatic nuisance fish species are allowed to spread," he cautioned.  “We all need to work together to slow or prevent the spread of exotic species and protect Vermont’s native fish and the fishing opportunities they provide.”


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