Northern pike are fast-breeding ambush predators capable of decimating native species like bass, trout, and salmon. On the other hand, the fish is highly prized by anglers for their fighting ability and high-flying acrobatics.
Washington wildlife officials are leaning towards the first definition in their attempts to cull the fish from the northeastern part of the state, but their efforts are not entirely appreciated. According to upi.com, the program is going against the grain with local anglers who want to preserve the fish in Washington waters. Not all anglers feel this way, and many are expected to join the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) in the campaign against northern pike. The DFW has taken the stance that the fish is a highly invasive predator with “potential for great ecological and economic damage, not just in northeast Washington but throughout the region.”
The department’s website reports that a rapid increase of pike in the Box Canyon Reservoi led to a decline in minnows, sunfish, largemouth bass, and perch. Even larger fish like salmon and steelhead are affected by pike predation. Bass anglers are especially adamant in preventing more northern pike from reaching unaffected waters.
The department is currently setting into motion a three-pronged plan to remove the fish by recruiting anglers, fishing derbies and using pike-specific nets. There is no possession limit or minimum size for pike caught as even stunted fish can reproduce. It is hoped that these aggressive measures will lead to a dramatic decline in northern pike.
Other anglers and longtime fans of the species are trying to persuade the department to halt their efforts.
“There’s not going to be any fish left when they’re done,” said John Cambell, who owns a sporting goods store. “We’ve had this stuff shoved down our throats.”
The crackdown on northern pike is affecting the state’s sportfishing industry, and that of nearby Idaho as well. However, the fallout from declining native species is expected to have a much greater impact, and not only for recreational anglers but commercial fishermen as well. The issue has become a double-edged sword that is sure to have at least some people disappointed.
Image courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife