Web Exclusive: Giant Goldfish are being discovered in lakes

Web Exclusive

(CNN/KCRA) - Researchers at Lake Tahoe have reeled in a catch that you will have to see to believe. Giant goldfish are found that are bigger than average and swimming where they don't belong.  Researchers fear it could be the result of a new growing problem.

On almost a daily basis, Lake Tahoe researchers head out on this customized boat to searching for non-native fish like the large mouth bass.  Using electric probes researchers stun the fish and then catch them with a net.  "You can get 200 fish in one scoop," says Christine Ngai, a researcher.  That's how Christine Ngai struck gold.

"You just see this bright golden orange thing starting to float up and you're like what is that? And then you take a net and you scoop it up and you're like it's a goldfish," says Ngai.

It's the same species sold in your pet store, but what they are finding are no ordinary goldfish. They are giant.  More than a foot and a half long. 

"We know that we have a giant goldfish.  The question now becomes how long has it been there and how many others are there in the lake," Dr. Sudeep Chandra, Associate Professor, UNR.  "One day they caught 15 in just this one corner in the Tahoe Keys," says Ngai.

Researchers believe the goldfish are introduced by people emptying fish bowls or aquariums into lakes and streams and confirms a new threat to the ecology of Lake Tahoe.  "Those small little things that people do can have a large impact when you consider that its probably not just one person doing it," says Ted Thayer, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Biologists believe, if the numbers grow, goldfish could ultimately affect Lake Tahoe's renowned clarity.  "We're trying to keep the lake crystal clear and excreting nutrients like the composition of miracle grow will stimulate algae growth," says Dr. Chandra.

Researchers say there are 100 times more large mouth bass, which pose a greater risk to the food chain, for now.  But they say the growing number of goldfish show just how easy it is for an invasive species to take hold.

You might not think a goldfish could survive in lake Tahoe with the snow creeping right up to the shoreline, But scientists found they are not only surviving they are multiplying.

Biologists point out that goldfish are closely related to the Asian carp.  That fish has taken hold in the Mississippi River Basin and raised fears about its introduction into the great lakes.


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