The Fish of Lake Michigan


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our first-ever Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

You see the line getting straight and moving around, so you start reeling it in. The fish tries to pull away, but eventually it comes up. Fishing in Burnham Harbor by Shedd Aquarium on July 6, the fish I pulled up were round gobies, bluegill and bass. Round gobies are an “invasive species” that eat the plankton and food that other fish need and they like to stay at the bottom of the lake. Invasive species come from another part of the world, like another lake or ocean, and they eat the other fishes’ food and cause a lot of trouble.

Before we went fishing we went to the Shedd Aquarium where we were talking about silver carp and big head carp, which are both types of Asian carp. They are also invasive species, coming to the Great Lakes up the Illinois River, but they are originally from Asia. Some things make them startled and make them jump out of the water, including loud noises that the boat motors make and rocks thrown in the water. When they jump out of the water they are so big that they hurt people they hit, sometimes seriously.

After the Asian carp with our guides at the Shedd Aquarium we moved on to the dolphins – there were five dolphins. They are very big and they look like they have a lot of muscles. One of our guides said they weigh about 1,000 pounds of mostly muscle. There were also sea lions. The females weigh about 700 pounds, the males 1,500 pounds.

After the aquarium we went fishing. The things you need for fishing are fishing poles, bait, hooks, weights, bobs and a bucket you can put fish in. You also need a fish net because if you have a very big fish like silver carp or bighead carp, these are over 90 pounds. For bait we used crawfish, worms and bee moths. Tyreshia Black caught 11 fish and I caught nine. Cornelius Jordan caught two, for a total of 22 fish. We caught mostly round gobies, which shows how many there are in Lake Michigan. They are not like other fish; they always stay at the bottom and they have their fins out and their mouth open. They look like you do when something surprises you and your mouth is open. They are brown and green.

We also saw common carp in the water, which are different Asian carp. They are so big, if you catch one you should stay away from the bank because they could pull you in. You catch common carp with corn.

You can always go to the Shedd Aquarium to see many different kinds of fish including the native and invasive fish that live in Lake Michigan. There is an electric barrier in the Chicago River to keep the big Asian carp out. By keeping all the big invasive fish like the Asian carp out, we can protect the little fish in Lake Michigan.

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