Outdoors

Is selfishness a factor in Pend Oreille River northern pike debate?

An angler shows the northern pike she landed while fishing in the Pend Oreille River near Cusick, Wash.  Pike are a relatively recent nonnative invasive species that's booming in the river between Newport, Wash., and Box Canyon Dam. (Rich Landers)
An angler shows the northern pike she landed while fishing in the Pend Oreille River near Cusick, Wash. Pike are a relatively recent nonnative invasive species that's booming in the river between Newport, Wash., and Box Canyon Dam. (Rich Landers)

FISHING — Some anglers share at least one trait with northern pike. They apparently wouldn't hesitate to eat their own kind.

Advocates of letting nature take its course in the invasion of northern pike down the Pend Oreille River seem to have little concern for the anglers downstream in the Columbia River.

While many anglers are enjoying the chance to catch pike in Pend Oreille County, state wildlife managers are concerned that increasing numbers and distribution of northern pike could impact vulnerable native species of trout, other game fish and non-game fish and even salmon and steelhead farther down the Columbia River system.

“That’s a big concern,” said John Whalen, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department regional fisheries manager. “If northern pike start spreading down the Columbia River, they could create significant ecological and economic damage.”

Perhaps pike advocates have not been paying attention to the decades of efforts and billions of dollars devoted to restoring salmon and steelhead runs damaged by hydropower projects. 

Do they know how much interest and economic impact has been generated by bringing back these fisheries from the mouth of the Columbia up to Chief Joseph Dam?

Other western states that have non-native populations of northern pike, are facing challenges similar to Washington. Although northern pike are native to much of Alaska, they are not native to the south-central part of the state where they have been illegally stocked and are considered invasive.

According to WDFW, pike have caused severe damage to native trout and salmon runs in several south-central Alaska watersheds and Washington is trying to learn from those events in order to prevent similar damage from occurring here.

WDFW is accept comments through Dec. 30 on proposed fishing regulations changes, including liberalizing the effort to reduce pike numbers in the Pend Oreille River.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will be hearing public comment on proposed fishing regulations when it meets Jan. 6-7 in Olympia.

The commission is scheduled to take action on those proposals at a public meeting Feb. 3-4 in Olympia.

 




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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