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Agency wants to poison lakes to rid them of longnose suckers

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has come up with an idea for ridding three lakes of unappealing northern longnose suckers.

The agency wants to poison the lakes on Fort Greely near Delta Junction so it can restock them with tastier fish like rainbow trout and Arctic grayling.

The Division of Sport Fish is seeking approval from the Department of Environmental Conservation to use a chemical called rotenone to kill suckers in Chet, J and Nickel lakes.

Rotenone is a naturally occurring substance found in the roots and stems of several tropical plants. It works by inhibiting a biochemical process in the fish cells, resulting in a fish's inability to use oxygen in the release of energy during normal body processes.

''In effect, the fish suffocate due to lack of oxygen,'' said Fronty Parker, area management biologist with Fish and Game's Delta field office.

The state poisoned the same lakes in 1975 in order to stock them with game fish but a high-water year in 1989 evidently allowed longnose suckers to find their way from the Delta River through tiny streams into J-Lake, which flows into Chet and Nickel lakes. By 1998, the suckers had taken over the three lakes.

Biologists captured 60 to 70 percent of the remaining game fish in the lakes two years ago and transferred them to nearby stocked lakes, rendering the three lakes basically useless in terms of fishing.

The Army also built a dam at the outlet of J-Lake to prevent fish from passing into the other lakes.

Unlike northern pike, suckers don't eat other fish, but they do fight them for food and usually win.

''You can have a sucker fishery or a rainbow trout fishery, but you can't have both,'' Parker said.



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