Lampreys were famous for making excellent angling bait, having toughness on the hook because of their hard, rough skin. The Brook Lamprey tends to live in the upper waters of a river, in the attic, as it were, above the parlour in which the larger River Lamprey, or lampern, lives.
The River Lamprey is noted for the exceptional sharpness of its teeth: all sources make reference to this. It grows to 20 inches (50 cm) and has the diameter of a thick lead pencil. As with the Brook Lamprey, its young are called Prides. This lamprey is a semi-
This curious, snouty and to some repulsive creature is found for sure in the Wick and the Naver. Perhaps it lives in other parts of the system too; it is by nature a recluse.
The smallest among the three species that inhabit the British Isles is the Brook Lamprey, which is about six inches in length. It is almost the most common. Unlike the other two species, it is non-
© 2019 FCRT / ALASDAIR OGILVIE
Lampreys can be stewed, fried or grilled. It has no bones, which removes one hazard, but the occasional lumps of gristle, which are an integral part of its anatomy, can disappoint the palate. Lamprey pie can be found on swanky menus in the UK. In parts of France they are considered a delicacy, lamproie à la Bordelaise being a well-
The Sea Lamprey is an altogether larger concern. It grows to 36 inches (91 cm) and can weigh 5 ½ lbs (2.5 kg). It breeds in fresh water and then migrates. It is said to be uncommon round the British Isles, but here is a remarkable photo of a Sea Lamprey spawning, taken on the Naver by David Johnstone. This specimen was about three feet long.
In the American Great Lakes the lampreys of the region, which are structurally similar to the true Sea Lamprey and are regarded as a very great nuisance, have the peculiarity that they never go to sea. They spawn in June then leave the lakes to seek out clear brooks, “often stealing a ride by fastening onto large fishes bound in the same direction”.
Sea Lamprey on the Naver
Photo David Johnstone
The teeth of a Sea Lamprey
Photo Chris Conroy
Brook Lamprey found dead on the river Vagastie after spawning Photo Chris Conroy
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