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Smallmouth Causes Havoc in Miramichi Lake

CANADA - Biologists and conservation officers are assessing the damage after someone put smallmouth bass in Miramichi Lake, one of the province's prime trout and salmon waters.

"It's definitely detrimental to the local fish populations," Sheri Strickland, spokeswoman for the provincial Department of Natural Resources told James Foster, Times & Transcript reporter.

"It can be serious. It is serious."

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is also investigating, as are local user groups, writes James Foster. The lake drains into the Miramichi River system which is world famous for its Atlantic salmon stocks.

Smallmouth bass compete with trout and salmon for food and habitat. Past illegal introductions of the species in other waters have seriously harmed native fish such as trout and Atlantic salmon. Fines for transplanting fish into lakes can range up to $100,000 and the culprit in this case is actively being sought.

"We are now trying to find out how far in the water shed the bass are," Strickland says.

Scientists and officials are electrofishing the lake, which is near Napadogan, and its outlet, Lake Brook, which is about five kilometres long and enters the Main Southwest Miramichi River.

"Once the degree of distribution is determined, we can formulate an action plan," Strickland says.

It's still not known how smallmouth bass came to be in the lake, but usually such cases are the result of someone deliberately capturing fish and then putting them in waters where they don't belong.