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, 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

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3 thoughts on “Washington Anglers Conflicted over Northern Pike

  1. Too bad, they take over like wildfire, and spread rapidly throughout as long as there is the slightest river system to follow. As for the fight, it’s O.K, I guess, no where near a bass.

  2. At least they aren’t snakehead, Asian carp, etc., etc. I firmly disagree that bass fight better (smallmouth do). Depending on if the meat is white, or we have another kind in the southern half of Minnesota where the meat is yellowish. Emphasis on “ish”. But the “northern” Northern Pike is white meat, delicious, and every bit as good as Walleye. The issue of the “Y” bones is easy to learn how to filet them out. When we do Canada, Northern Pike is as high on the list as Walleye. Above lake trout for that matter. Manage them, eat them, give them a chance. If they over populate they get stunted in size, we call them “hammer handles”. Pesky, no fun. Good pickled though. We have lots of lakes and rivers that have a healthy relationship with all species including trout. So not all is lost. At least they aren’t snakehead, Asian carp, etc., etc.

    1. Ditto on all this. Once you get used to getting the Y bones out, Northern Pike meat is great! And absolutely fun to catch too………

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