New fish-tracking program comes to Candlewood
DANBURY — Two grass carp flopped in a net as Todd Bobowick carried them from a tank on the back of his truck to the town boat launch, where he released them into Candlewood Lake on Wednesday morning.
Several trips and 10 minutes later, a dozen carp 12 to 14 inches long, each trailing a thin metal antenna, had joined the 3,800 sterile grass carp stocked in the lake last summer in an effort to combat the spread of the invasive Eurasian watermilfoil.
By early afternoon, about 50 new fish had been released at four sites around the lake. But unlike their predecessors, these carp will be tracked using radio transmitters with unique frequencies in the first program of its kind in Connecticut.
Each carp has had a transmitter surgically inserted into its abdominal cavity, along with an antenna several inches long coming out of its side. Bobowick, a fish veterinarian, along with representatives from the state and Candlewood Lake Authority, implanted the transmitters on Saturday at his hatchery, Rowledge Pond Aquaculture.
Each fish transmits a signal that can be detected up to 400 yards away using special equipment mounted in a boat. Scientists will track each fish to see how it moves through the 5,000-acre lake and what factors might contribute to these movements, including proximity to its favored food, the Eurasian watermilfoil.
“The academic goal is to better understand their behavior in relation to a food source,” said Candlewood Lake Authority Executive Director Larry Marsicano.
He said this will help the authority better distribute the fish when they add more in coming years to improve the fish-to-milfoil ratio.
Last summer, the authority decided not to release the carp in sections of the lake bordering New Milford, for fear the fish would escape through the power company conduit that feeds into the Housatonic River. If tracking research shows the carp don’t travel too widely, Marsicano said, the authority might stock the area in the future.
Theodora Pinou, a biology professor at Western Connecticut State University, and some of her students will track the fish a few times a week throughout the summer.
“We don’t know a lot about these animals, so I’m interested to see their behavior,” she said.
Pinou is looking forward to comparing their observations of the sterile carp to the carp that are naturally present in the lake, as well as conducting other research on the species.
“It’s good for the students to be involved in a hands-on project instead of a theoretical project,” Pinou said. “I’m a lifelong learner, so it’s always exciting to be on the front of something that’s new and different.”
Adding the fish with the trackers is the next phase of the project paid for with a $50,000 matching grant the authority received from the state in 2014. The Goldring Family Foundation also donated money for the carp.
“The state’s been very supportive,” Marsicano said. “They’re very interested in this work.”
The new carp could also help raise some money for the authority. People will be able to name a particular carp and follow its progress for $100.
The authority hopes to post maps of where the fish migrate on its website.
“It’s certainly unique for us, and it’s the first tracking program in the state,” said Mark Howarth, the authority’s public education director. “It’s just a good way to raise awareness about what we’re doing and a lot of fun. A lot of residents were excited about the stocking last year.”
Courtesy of newstimes.com