I caught this fish at a top secret location in late March... noice the lamprey hanging from near the anal fin:
Here are some closeups... mine was about 6 inches or so...
If I had been rigged up with a circle hook on a fishfinder rig, that boy would have gone back over on a hook... cuz he sure does look a lot like an illegal-to-fish-in-the-spring eel to me. It was the first lamprey I've seen on a rockfish in 4 years of fishing the bay too.
The paddle tail on ALLTACKLE's looks like a hagfish?
I really don't know anything about the two species, except that I used to shoot lamprey's off a fresh water dam near where I lived when I was a kid, and the one in your photo looked somewhat different, so I looked it up.
I don't know about them falling off once they get in the bay, we used to get them on Crappie in the Red Cedar river in mid-Michigan as a kid. Also were decimating the Lake Trout in the Great Lakes until they figured out a Lampricide to use on them in the major rivers. Nasty creatures! You pull them off the fish and they immediately try to suck on you! They were illegal to release back in the water in Michigan just like Snakeheads here. It was kinda cool back in the day. After all the times your dad was telling you to release small fish and not torture anything he finally would hand you a lighter and say "Make sure this Mother*&^% dies a slow death."
Ive had them swim by me whille wading the upper Pax and as well as Deer Creek. The last time I saw one was while swimming with the kids on the Big Elk. I was diving under a log looking for critters and this 3 footer came out, close encounter, scared the **** out of me. They are anadromous, they breed in freshwater.