Great Lakes Now features the search for venomous catfish

Northern madtoms are small but potentially dangerous. Learn more about them in the November edition of the PBS nature series.

a small yellow and brown fish swims by some sand and a log

An adult northern madtom at the bottom of a lake.

The latest episode of Great Lakes Now features a small fish tale. Or to be more precise, a tale about a small fish.

Scientists are searching for a tiny catfish called the northern madtom. The average adult specimen is four to five inches long. They inhabit specific areas, including Lake St. Clair.

Producer Annamarie Sysling says the wee swimmers are not well-known.

“Most anglers will go their entire lives without encountering these fish,” she says.

GLN contributor Kathy Johnson teamed up with a couple of research biologists at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to find the fish.

“Getting to know a little bit about what these fish need to thrive and what their nesting behavior is like,” Sysling says.

One thing they already know: northern madtoms are venomous.

“I didn’t know there were any venomous fish in the Great Lakes,” Sysling says. “Apparently their spines are the venomous parts.”

Great Lakes Untamed

The November episode of GLN also introduces viewers to a new documentary series called “Great Lakes Untamed.”

Sysling says three-part series explores the wide range of life inhabiting the lakes.

“The filmmakers set out to make this series to showcase the wide breadth of biodiversity and species in the region,” she says.

BBC documentarian Ted Oakes led the project. He grew up along the Ottawa River in Canada.

So what’s The Catch?

Sysling hosts a segment on Great Lakes Now called “The Catch.” This month’s vignette starts in northern Minnesota, where state and tribal agencies accuse Enbridge of breaking the law while building an energy pipeline known as Line 3.

“I also talked with a reporter at Ideastream about how robots will be picking up trash along shorelines in the spring,” Sysling says. “And new contributor Staci Drouillard is doing a monthly column through an indigenous lens called ‘Nibi Chronicles.'”

Great Lakes Now airs November 30 at 7:30 p.m. on WTVS, Detroit Public TV.

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  • Pat Batcheller

    Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.