One of the most exciting things about fishing is the uncertainty of what dwells in the dark depths of Mother Nature’s lakes, rivers and oceans.
TV shows like Jeremy Wade’s “River Monsters” are fascinating to me. Giant catfish capable of snacking on people? Nile perch large enough to eat a small crocodile? Stingrays that weigh more than 1,000 pounds?
Sign me up.
In recent months, Internet photos surfaced of a “Bear Lake Monster” washed ashore in Utah and an unknown creature of the deep found off the coast of Australia. The Utah photos turned out to be a hoax, while the Australia specimen was identified as a very large, toothy pike eel.
So neither was a scientific breakthrough, but it’s exciting to think about the unknown fish still awaiting discovery.
Unfortunately, river monsters aren’t always a good thing. While dozens of species are great fun to fish for — and a handful are downright scary to think about — some fish simply don’t belong in certain waters. And when they get there, the damage can be impossible to undo.
Here in Idaho, the most recent example comes from Lucky Peak Reservoir, where a Fish and Game employee spotted a Plecostomus earlier this year. Also known as a suckermouth catfish or a pleco, the Plecostomus is a common pet fish used for cleaning the algae off of aquarium glass. Plecos are native to the South American tropics, which means the only way for one to find its way into Lucky Peak is the same way most lake and river monsters get where they don’t belong — human introduction.
This is not an uncommon problem. In recent years, local anglers have found everything from piranha-like pacu to tilapia, weather loaches and koi swimming or washed ashore in Idaho waters. Last fall, Fish and Game had to drain and poison Horsethief Reservoir to get rid of a booming bullhead population that began with an illegal transplant.
In some parts of the country, invasive species like silver carp and snakeheads have had devastating effect on aquatic ecosystems and fisheries.
I imagine most of the folks who transplant or dump fish don’t mean any harm. They’re probably just looking for an easy way to get rid of a pet that’s outgrown its fish tank. And while many species don’t survive or reproduce outside of their natural habitats, those that do become a real nuisance.
Many of the irrigation canals in Meridian and Kuna are overrun with weather loaches. And one of my favorite local fisheries, Lake Lowell, is becoming increasingly overpopulated with common carp, which could stunt the growth of bass and other sport fish.
It’s important for anglers to understand how non-native fish harm local wildlife by competing for food, transmitting diseases and overcrowding habitats. So if you’re looking to get rid of an unwanted pet, call a local pet store, contact Fish and Game or sell it to a responsible owner.
Let’s keep our waters full of healthy, native (or at least managed) populations, and leave the river monsters for Jeremy Wade.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at outdoors @idahostatesman.com.