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Take a Closer Look

Invasive Round Goby Baitfish

The invasive round goby has been found in New York’s Hudson River, spelling trouble for Lake Champlain—and its world class fisheries.

Round gobies are small, sculpin-like baitfish native to Eurasia. In their native range gobies feed on aquatic invertebrates and are prey for many fish species. In North America, they are a devastating invader. Gobies arrived on our shores in 1990 by way of the ballast water used by international cargo ships. From their first introduction in the St. Clair River that connects Lake Erie and Lake Huron, they spread quickly to all five Great Lakes, and beyond.

That rapid expansion makes the discovery of gobies in the Hudson concerning for the biologists and anglers who study and steward Lake Champlain. When gobies invade a waterbody, they aggressively out-compete native baitfish like darters and sculpins. Gobies also carry diseases that can spread to other fish, and even many species of waterfowl and shorebirds. Most worrisome for anglers, gobies are extremely effective at raiding the nests and spawning grounds of our native sportfish like smallmouth bass and lake trout, putting stress on these valued populations. Some studies have shown that gobies can clear a smallmouth bass nest of eggs in just fifteen minutes.

If you’ve followed bass fishing in the last few years, you might have heard a conflicting story about the round goby. Some bass anglers welcome the species because of gobies’ ability to reproduce rapidly and provide an abundant food source. Anglers think this will improve the quality of the bass fishery. But, while it’s true that some bass fisheries with invasive gobies have shown a boost in bass size, that silver lining is starting to fade, as more has been learned about this invasive species’ long-term impacts. In addition to displacing native baitfish, carrying diseases, and preying on game fish nests, studies show that goby invasions may also decrease bass populations over the long haul.

So, what can anglers do to help protect Lake Champlain from this new invader? The most important step is to make sure not to unintentionally help the fish navigate up the Hudson. Using best practices, like not moving live fish from one waterbody to another and thoroughly cleaning and drying your boat between waterbodies, will help reduce the chance of spreading gobies and other invasive organisms. Additionally, anglers should make sure they can properly identify round gobies, especially by a tell-tale “disc” on their belly formed by fused pelvic fins. If a round goby is encountered, it should be reported to the department and our partners in conservation at