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Mappa.Mundi Magazine
Marty Marty Lucas was the Founding Editor of Mappa.Mundi. He and Corinne Becknell began their collaboration as electronic musicians in the early 1980s. Since 1992 Becknell and Lucas have been producing media for the Internet. With the Internet Multicasting Service, based in Washington D.C., they helped pioneer the use of the Internet as a multimedia communications resource.

Related Links

Links that are related to the article.

» Coregonus artedii Lesueur 1818

» Summary of Fish Species Lost or Seriously Diminished in the Great Lakes

» Fish of Lake Michigan

» Lake Herring

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Past articles by Marty Lucas.

» Pastures in the Sea

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The Mighty Cisco

       Before Ciscos were routers, and even before Cisco was the latino Lone Ranger, ciscos (Coreogonus artedii), also known as lake herring, were commonly sold in the fish markets of the Great Lakes. Phylogenetically the cisco is placed in the trout family, but it looks like a big shad. In The Fishes of Illinois (Phillip W. Smith, 1979, University of Illinois Press) it's described as a whitefish attaining the size of sixteen inches or more. Ciscos live in cold deep freshwater lakes and in relatively shallow parts of the Great Lakes where they are believed to feed on large crustaceans, benthic organisms and an occasional minnow.


       In the 1940s and earlier, ciscos were common and popular in the fish markets of the Upper Great Lakes. If their flesh tasted anything like their larger relative Coreogonus clupeaformis, commonly sold as Lake Superior Whitefish, it was among the most heavenly fish to ever grace a dinner plate. They were easy to catch and the fishing pressure was tremendous. Then, the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway to aid in shipping allowed sea lampreys to enter the cisco's fresh water haunts. The hideous little rasp mouthed beasts found the cisco just as alluring as the Great Lakes fishermen did, and the cisco's populations plummeted.

      Now that the concerted battle to rid the Great Lakes of lampreys has achieved some success, related species like the lake whitefish and the lake trout have enjoyed something of a resurgence. Not so the cisco, whose recovery may have been thwarted by an inability to compete with other (non-native) fish with similar feeding habits like the smelt and the alewife.

      Several other, salmonids of genus Coreogonus are commonly known as ciscos including the Blackfin cisco, Coreogonus nigripinnis, pictured above, the Shortnose cisco,Coreogonus reighardi and the Shortjaw cisco, Coreogonus zenithicus. Unfortunately several of these are either extirpated throughout most of the Great Lakes or (as in the case of the Blackfin cisco) are now extinct.

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