Musings on the Migratory Fish of the Week: Lamprey


Adult Sea Lamprey | USFWS

Adult Sea Lamprey | USFWS

World Fish Migration Day is coming up on Saturday (5/24)! Are you ready? If not, maybe these writings on lamprey will help you along.

First, we have a poem by one of American Rivers’ partners, Tim Watts, about Cohannet. “Cohannet” is the Native American name given to the first falls on what is today the Mill River in Taunton, Massachusetts. 

Cohannet, Cohannet,
Something here, elusive?
Something felt, with in, with out, as one.

Blue Herons silhouetted above.
Killdeers dancing on gravel.
Calls of blackbirds punctuating.

Pictured in a cobble frame of her own construction mother lamprey glides effortlessly.
Her being a living medium, conduit of spirit, water to stone, stone to water.
Breath spanning, joining eons past, todays present, tomorrow.
Ancient wisdom speaking language unspoken but by motion.

Mother Earth conducting with sweeping currents.
Orchestrating.
Cresendo fading.
Elements eddying.
Silent pools before us speak.

Also, I couldn’t help but share a beautiful description of our Fish of the Week, the lamprey, by Henry Thoreau, from his book: A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (published 1849).

“In the shallow parts of the river, where the current is rapid, and the bottom pebbly, you may sometimes see the curious circular nests of the lamprey eel (Petromyzon americanus), the American stone-sucker, as large as a cart-wheel, a foot or two in height, and sometimes rising half a foot above the surface of the water. They collect these stones, of the size of a hen’s egg, with their mouths, as their name implies, and are said to fashion them into circles with their tails. They ascend falls by clinging to the stones, which may sometimes be raised, by lifting the fish by the tail. As they are not seen on their way down the streams, it is thought by fishermen that they never return, but waste away and die, clinging to rocks and stumps of trees for an indefinite period; a tragic feature in the scenery of the river bottoms worthy to be remembered with Shakespeare’s description of the sea-floor. They are rarely seen in our waters at present, on account of the dams, though they are taken in great quantities at the mouth of the river in Lowell. Their nests, which are very conspicuous, look more like art than anything in the river.”

Please celebrate World Fish Migration Day this Saturday by going out on your favorite river! We hope to see you there!