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Invasive Round Goby

Round goby have made their way from the Great Lakes through the Erie Canal and Mohawk River to the Hudson River. DEC is working closely with Lake Champlain Basin Program, Canal Corps, Vermont DEC, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other stakeholders to respond to the potential threat of round goby entering Lake Champlain through the Champlain Canal.

Round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) is a highly invasive bottom-dwelling fish from the freshwater region of Europe's Black and Caspian Seas. They have voracious appetites which allows them to displace and outcompete native species.


image showing identifiable features on a round goby

Round gobies are brownish-gray in color with dark brown or black splotches. During spawning and nest guarding season(April-September), males have black bodies with yellowish spots and median fins with a yellowish-white outer edge. Gobies and related species are most easily identified by their characteristic puffy cheeks, like those of a chipmunk. Round gobies can be distinguished from other species by the presence of a prominent black spot at the base of their first dorsal fins. Their eyes are large and raised like those of a frog. When fully grown their size ranges from 4-10 inches in length.

Habitat and Current Known Locations

Round gobies are typically found in freshwater but can tolerate mildly saline waters. They are now present in all the Great Lakes. Their populations have spread by swimming from the Great Lakes through the Erie Canal and Mohawk River to the Hudson River. They are not yet found in Lake Champlain. They also continue to spread to inland lakes.

How Round Goby Spread

Round goby was introduced into the Great Lakes through ballast water on ships from the Black Sea in the early 1990s. They can spread by being transported and dumped from bait buckets and water-containing compartments of boats as well as by swimming through both natural and manmade waterbodies such as rivers and canals.

Environmental Impacts

  • Compete directly with native fish (mottled sculpin, darter, and logperch) for habitat
  • Eat native mussels, native fish eggs, young fish, and many invertebrates that native fish species rely on for food
  • Associated with outbreaks of botulism (by consuming filter feeding mussels) which cause fish kills and annual die-offs of diving birds
  • Act as a vector for viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS)
  • Accumulate mercury in their bodies
  • Impact municipalities that benefit from angler tourism

Management Tools

The best method for managing round goby is preventing its spread from one body of water to the next. Other management options can be successful depending on the size and location of the infestation. Options include physical activities like using traps, dams, canal locks, electrical barriers, and earthen barriers to deter movement, as well as application of the chemical rotenone.

Management methods should be evaluated on a case by case basis for each infestation. For help with selecting the best management for your situation, contact your local Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM).

How You Can Help

round goby in someone's hand
  • Learn how to identify round goby.
  • Clean, drain, and dry your watercraft and equipment thoroughly before visiting other waterbodies.
    • Inspect and remove debris and mud from boats, trailers, and equipment before and after each use.
    • Dispose of all debris and bait in trash cans or above the waterline on dry land.
    • Drain all water-holding compartments including live wells, bait wells, and bilge areas. If possible, disinfect with hot water (140°F) for at least 30 seconds.
    • Dry boats, trailers, and all equipment before use in another water body. A minimum of 5-7 days drying time in dry, warm conditions is recommended.
  • Dispose of aquarium waste or specimens in the trash. Do not dump in drainage ditches, sewers, or other waterbodies.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash and only use bait that is certified.
  • If you think you have found round goby, take several photos of an individual animal on a dark background with an object for scale, collect the GPS coordinates of the location where you found it, and contact or your local Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM).

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  • Bureau of Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-4253
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