Chestnut Lamprey

Posted by Phil Lilley on May 11th, 2010
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From OA Forum

Original post by creekwader:
Finally made my first stream fishing trip for the year. This is not normal for me. Usually, I’ve been out a dozen or so times, by now.

Took my yak on one of my my usual Ozark streams. I tried a section that I’ve never fished before. I went solo, so I didn’t have a shuttle. I had to paddle back to my put in. It limited the amount of water that I could cover. I only fished about a mile section.

The stream was low for this time of year and I was reduced to mainly fishing the holes, as the runs were quite shallow.

I started by throwing a 3″ dinger, and caught a 14″ largemouth, right out of the gate. A few casts later, I caught a 13″ smallie on a hula grub. After that, the bass fishing slowed down for awhile, and the sunnies went crazy. The male”s fins were tipped with black, so they were well into the spawn.

I went to a 3/8 oz. spinnerbait to get away from the sunnies, but it didn’t matter. I think I must of caught at least 25 sunnies before I caught my next bass. The sunnies were very aggressive, and didn’t give the bass didn’t have a chance to get to the lure.

Finally I picked up a few largemouth and smallies in the 12″ range, before I caught a hard fighting 18″ largemouth. Followed by two more in the same range.

Altogether, I only caught 12 largemouth and 6 smallies. Mostly on the spinnerbait with a few on a 3″ grub. Also, at least 30 sunnies landed, not to mention another 30 or so tail biters. They kept me busy in between the bass.

Anyway, I caught a nice largemouth with, what I thought was an 8″ leech attached. At least till it fell off him, while I was taking a pic. It fell in my lap and shot like a lightening bolt under my leg then to the other end of the yak. I had my camera phone in one hand, the bass in the other, still hooked up, my pole about ready to fall out of the yak, and my paddle rolling across my legs, along with this “devil” thing flying around my yak. I’m wearing shorts and trying to move my feet and legs away from this thing.

I finally released the bass, secured my pole and phone. Then fished my paddle out of the water.

I tried to grab this thing and found out where the phrase “slippery as an eel”, came from. I got a few pics of it. I looked it up on the net and finally came to the conclusion that it was an American eel. I could be wrong, though. It had a row of gill like holes on both sides. A suction cup for a mouth with what looked like some teeth. It wasn’t flat on the back like a leech but flat on the sides. It also, had something like a fin down the back. I dunno. You guys tell me.

Post by Al Agnew:

Actually, it had to be a chestnut lamprey. The brook lampreys are non-parasitic. Only other parasitic lamprey in MO, the silver lamprey, only lives in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Totally different family of fish from the American eel. You’ll never see a small American eel in Missouri…ALL of them are adults. They actually migrate, believe it or not, all the way to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to spawn, and the young ones spend their growing up time gradually migrating back up into the streams all over North America. By the time they get to the Ozarks, they are full adults, two feet long or longer. Kinda like salmon in reverse. It’s really amazing to catch an American eel on, say, Big River, and realize that it has to go all the way down Big River, then down the Meramec, then down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, all the way across the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida, into the Atlantic Ocean, and halfway across the Atlantic in order to spawn! And that it came all that way while growing up to reach Big River.

On the other hand, chestnut lampreys have an interesting life cycle. The larval stage looks like the adult, but they do not have eyes and their mouth is a U-shaped hood rather than a sucking disc. Larvae burrow in soft bottom areas of the stream and eat microscopic life strained from the water and sediment with a sieve contraption in their mouth. It takes 2-3 years for them to reach adult stage, at which time they transform into the parasitic form with the sucking disc. After a year or two, they spawn and die. They spawn in smaller, gravelly streams in pits they excavate by moving stones with their sucking mouth at the heads of riffles, and 20 or more can spawn in the same pit. But most of their adult stage is spent in the larger Ozark streams.

The non-parasitic species, four of them in Missouri, skip the whole adult feeding stage. They go through the larval stage until they transform in late summer and fall, and remain in the smaller streams without feeding until spring, when they spawn and die.

Chestnut lampreys on fish seem to have gotten a lot more common in recent years. We catch a lot of bass on the Meramec with lampreys attached, especially in the winter. The lampreys do little harm to the bass, unless the wound they leave becomes infected. I’ve had them latch onto me a couple times getting them out of the boat after they dropped off the bass…feels like a suction cup lined with sandpaper.

Link to MDC site on Chestnet Lamprey

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