Lateral and vertical distribution of downstream migrating juvenile sea lamprey.
Sea lamprey is considered an invasive and nuisance species in the Laurentian Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, and the Finger Lakes of New York and is a major focus of control efforts. Currently, management practices focus on limiting the area of infestation using barriers to block migratory adults, and lampricides to kill ammocoetes in infested tributaries. No control efforts currently target the downstream-migrating post-metamorphic life stage which could provide another management opportunity. In order to apply control methods to this life stage, a better understanding of their downstream movement patterns is needed. To quantify spatial distribution of downstream migrants, we deployed fyke and drift nets laterally and vertically across the stream channel in two tributaries of Lake Champlain. Sea lamprey was not randomly distributed across the stream width and lateral distribution showed a significant association with discharge. Results indicated that juvenile sea lamprey is most likely to be present in the thalweg and at midwater depths of the stream channel. Further, a majority of the catch occurred during high flow events, suggesting an increase in downstream movement activity when water levels are higher than base flow. Discharge and flow are strong predictors of the distribution of out-migrating sea lamprey, thus managers will need to either target capture efforts in high discharge areas of streams or develop means to guide sea lamprey away from these areas.