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Tribes, state netting pike in Lake Roosevelt near Kettle River

FISHING — Indian tribes and the state have moved ahead with gillnet surveys to get a handle on how well-established invasive northern pike have become in the upper reaches of Lake Roosevelt and the Columbia River.

The research stems from a spike in catches of non-native pike by sport fishermen this year.

Among the bad news the research has turned up so far in the Kettle River area:

  • At least three year-classes of northern pike have been found, which means they could be finding places to spawn and take hold.
  • Here's a video update by KING 5 TV.

Bowhunting for northern pike illegal in Washington

UPDATED 5:50 p.m.

FISHING — Warning: It's illegal to take northern pike with bow and arrow in Washington and Idaho.

In a post yesterday about northern pike suppression planned for Lake Roosevelt, I reported that a few bowhunters were targeting northern pike where the predators are showing up in notable numbers and sizes near Kettle Falls.

That's true, but I should have said that it's illegal, as Marc Divens, WDFW warmwater fisheries biologist pointed out by email.

While Washington fish managers don't want northern pike in the Columbia system — and there's no minimum size limit and no daily limit on them — pike are still not totally open to annihilation in Washington.

It's pretty much illegal to use bow and arrow for anything other than CARP in Washington. 

Page 12 of the 2015 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet says:

You May Not …fish for Game Fish, salmon, shad,
sturgeon or shellfish with bow and arrow or spear.

However, a devil can always be lurking in the details. Reading the fine print of the regs specific to Lake Roosevelt (page 93), it's unlawful to fish for CARP with bow and arrow in Lake Roosevelt.

Northern pike were recently reclassified from "Game Fish" to "Prohibited Species" status in Washington by the Fish and Wildlife Commission after pike numbers increased in the Pend Orielle, Divens said.

"Basically, this was a decision at the policy level to indicate that Washington State was not interested in welcoming northern pike into the state, mostly due to concerns with the possibility of moving downstream into the Columbia River where they could pose a threat to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts."

The WDFW Webpage for northern pike says:

In April 2011, public meetings were conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department (KNRD) to solicit feedback on the findings to that point and the plan going forward. Also, as a result of the numbers of Northern Pike captured, plus their spawning and predatory habits, the WDFW Commission voted to reclassify Northern Pike as a Prohibited Species in Washington.

Under this designation:

  • anglers may harvest pike under WDFW sport fishing rules, with no minimum size and no daily or possession limit;
  • pike must be killed before leaving the water in which they are caught;
  • the release of live Northern Pike into other waters is strictly prohibited.

"We want people to catch them, kill them and not move them around," Divens said.

Northern pike: Get ‘em while they last in Lake Roosevelt

UPDATED 5/28/15 with details about bowhunting ban.

FISHING — While anglers have reported catching the occasional northern pike in Lake Roosevelt for about six years, the trickle of pike from Montana, through the Pend Oreille River to the Columbia has become more than a stream. 

State and tribal fish managers are hoping to jump on the expanding pike fishery and keep it from being anything significant.

Meanwhile, look for pike lurking in the shallows. This may be the peak year for pike in Roosevelt if fish managers have their way.

Even bowhunters are reporting pike kills from their boats in the Kettle Falls area.

HOWEVER, it's illegal to use bow and arrow for fish in Lake Roosevelt.   While Washington fish managers don't want northern pike in the Columbia system — and there's no minimum size limit or daily limit on them — pike are still considered "game fish" in Washington.

Page 12 of the 2015 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet says:

You May Not …fish for Game Fish, salmon, shad,
sturgeon or shellfish with bow and arrow or spear.

Video helps anglers connect with North Idaho pike study

FISHING — A northern pike monitoring project on Idaho Panhandle waters helps biologists work to strike a balance between the species popularity with anglers as well as the toothy predator's potential to impact other fish species if its numbers are not kept in balance.

Fish and Game biologists keep regular tabs on northern pike populations in various North Idaho lakes.

A new video posted on the Fish and Game website shows how anglers help with northern pike population surveys through Fish and Game’s “Tag You’re It” program.

The video, filmed at Killarney Lake, also includes a demonstration on how to fillet a pike, which makes excellent table fare.

Fly fisher lands 16-pound pike from ‘Best Trout Stream in America’

FISHING — Outdoor Life once headlined Montana's Bighorn River as the Best Trout Stream in America.

Apparently the predators heard the news.

A fly fisherman got the surprise of his life last month when he cast for the river's noble trout and hooked up with a lunker northern pike.

Here's the story by Brett French of the Billings Gazette:

Rogue Fish / Fly fisher lands big pike on renowned trout river

By BRETT FRENCH / french@billingsgazette.com

Famed for its spectacular trout fishing, Montana's Bighorn River recently gave Kansas City, Mo., fly angler Nathan Diesel a big, toothy surprise - a 38-inch, 16-pound northern pike.

"How crazy is that?" said Mike DuFresne, a Billings fly angler who rowed Diesel to the spot of the catch, about a mile below the 3-Mile fishing access site.

The catch is so surprising because northern pike aren't common to that stretch of the river, especially ones that big. For about 30 miles below Yellowtail Dam - the portion of the Bighorn River that Diesel and DuFresne were fishing - the Bighorn River flows cool and clear, making it a productive and popular trout fishery, well-known around the world. Rainbow and brown trout are the main species of fish occupying that stretch of water, not northern pike.

"They're not unheard of, but it's pretty rare," said Mike Ruggles, a Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist for the Bighorn.

Slow day

The 36-year-old Diesel said his day of fishing on Jan. 23 had been unproductive. They had launched DuFresne's drift boat below the Afterbay that morning, but DuFresne had caught only two trout before they stopped at what's known as Crow Beach.

Using a 6 weight Winston fly rod, Diesel was tossing a 5-inch long articulated fly that he'd tied up only the night before. Diesel is used to casting such big flies. He said on the White River in Arkansas it's common for anglers to lob 6- to 8-inch long articulated flies into the water to catch big brown trout.

On the Bighorn, Diesel was stripping the big fly back to shore when he saw the shadow of a fish in pursuit of the minnow-looking streamer. With only about 3 feet of fly line dangling from the end of the rod, he stopped stripping and twitched the rod tip a few times to give the fly a little action. That's when the big pike inhaled the fly, turned and swam away, peeling off line until reaching the backing.

"I've caught three browns over 20 pounds in my life," Diesel said, the largest weighing 24 pounds. "So I thought it was a brown trout all along."

Not a trout

Diesel yelled to DuFresne, who was fishing above him, to grab the net and that he had a big fish on - at least a 10-pounder. DuFresne arrived in time to see the big fish roll on the surface, that's when they both realized it was a pike and not a brown trout.

"Your brain, when you're on the Bighorn, is in trout mode," DuFresne said, so seeing a northern pike roll didn't register right away since he was trying to decipher if the fish was a rainbow or a brown trout.

Unable to fit more than the pike's head in the trout net, the two anglers boosted the fish onto the bank and marveled at its size. After the first couple of photos, DuFresne talked Diesel into posing with the fish in front of his drift boat while holding the fly rod so they could convince people that the big northern had indeed been caught on the Bighorn River.

"The picture has gone viral in the Billings area," DuFresne said. "Almost everyone who has seen it said, 'Wow, I can't believe you landed it' because pike are notorious for shearing line off."

Toothy predators

Northern pike have rows of super sharp teeth. Most anglers targeting the fish use heavy leaders, or even steel leaders, to prevent the fish from cutting the line and breaking off.

So the fact that Diesel was able to land the fish on more traditional gear makes the outcome even more incredible.

"It took the fly so deep in its throat that we believe the leader stayed in the corner of its mouth away from the teeth," DuFresne said.

Diesel's rod was rigged with 0X fluorocarbon tippet, which is strong but still only rated as 12-pound test. Tied to the end of the tippet Diesel had his large, articulated fly, which is about two times larger than a more standard size 6 woolly bugger fly more commonly used to hook trout on the river.

"My wife affectionately named the fly the Phantom," Diesel said.

Hero shot

Since landing the fish, Diesel has gained a bit of notoriety among DuFresne's fishing buddies. When they see a photo of the fish, most people say "Holy cow," and the second thing they say is "Did you kill it?" he said.

Keeping such a large, predatory fish in the popular trout river wouldn't earn Diesel many fly-fishing fans, but removing it from the water sure has.

"We had to cull her from the herd," DuFresne said. "It was a female. She was actually in spectacular condition, not a mark or mar on her.

"It surprised me as fat as she was that her belly was completely empty, but jam-packed with close to 3 pounds of eggs alone."

Diesel said he doesn't like to eat fish, but DuFresne has already fried up some of the fillets. The fish is so big that one-quarter of its meat fed four people, he said.

The Wanderer

So where did the fish come from?

Northerns have been planted in Tongue River and Fort Peck reservoirs in Montana, as well as Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. All of them are connected to the Yellowstone River, to which the Bighorn River is a tributary. Yet the mouth of the Tongue River is 100 miles downstream. It's about 300 miles to the Missouri-Yellowstone confluence and Lake Sakakawea.

It's been documented by FWP that high water in 2011 flushed some of Montana's reservoir fish over dams. The Tongue River joins the Yellowstone River at Miles City, and Fort Peck Reservoir feeds the Missouri River, which joins the Yellowstone near the Montana-North Dakota border. The Missouri River feeds Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. Could this pike have grown up in one of these lakes before wandering?

Northern pike are also known to infrequently inhabit the lower Bighorn River from Hardin downstream, but there are several diversion dams on the Bighorn and Yellowstone rivers any fish migrating upstream would have to cross.

"Pike are pretty good swimmers," said FWP's Ruggles. "It's been documented that those fish will move a long way looking for good spawning habitat."

Diesel also came a long way to defy the odds.

"It's crazy to think about the hundreds and hundreds of boats, the thousands of fishing lines that have gone through that hole," DuFresne said.

He said other anglers may have hooked the fish and quickly been broken off, without knowing it was a large pike.

Diesel and DuFresne finished their Bighorn fishing trip with only a couple of trout apiece - and one enormous pike, the only one Diesel has ever caught.

"It was a slow day," Diesel said. "But one fish can sure make a day."

Last Catch Pike Tourney lures anglers to CdA

FISHING — September into October has long been known as a great month to go fishing for northern pike in the Idaho Panhandle, and the season is getting an added attraction.

The debut of the Coeur d'Alene Casino's Last Catch Pike Tourney is set for Saturday, Sept. 13, on Lake Coeur d'Alene and the chain lakes.

Boats will launch from Harrison in two waves:

  • 7 a.m. ending at 3 p.m.
  • 7:30 a.m. ending at 3:30 p.m.

Entry is $100 per two-angler team if purchased in advance through TicketsWest or $10 additional fee to sign up at launch site.

The event is sponsored by Cabela's and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, which would like to encourage more anglers to enjoy the fun of catching lunker pike while coaxing them into harvesting a few more of the abundant non-native species.

Here's the skinny on the tourney:

  • Two Person teams
  • Pays out 15 slots
  • Must be age 18 or older
  • No live bait; artificial lures only
  • Five fish creel
  • Bonus fish award for pike caught in Lake Cd'A's Windy Bay
  • No size limit
  • No boundaries
  • Obey lake laws
  • Two pole limit
  • Harvest only
  • Big fish prize
  • Fish from boat or land

Info: Tim Williams (208) 582-0701.

Montana investigating pike in Lake Mary Ronan

FISHING — Sounds like bucket biologists are back at work in Western Montana.

The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is investigating whether a fisherman’s report that he caught two pike in Lake Mary Ronan last month indicates a serious problem.

Fisheries biologists plan to use nets to catch fish in the lake and determine if the suspected illegal introduction has resulted in the establishment of a pike population. Regional fisheries manager Mark Deleray says they’re trying to confirm whether any reproduction has occurred.

FWP says northern pike are predatory and could impact the kokanee salmon and trout fishery. Kokanee in Lake Mary Ronan serve as the egg source for stocking lakes across the state.

The investigation follows recent Fish and Wildlife Commission policy changes that require the FWP to formulate a plan to deal with illegally introduced fish.

Northern pike can’t get food stamps

FISHING — An angler took a shot at me in the Sunday Sports Letters regarding my Thursday column updating the northern pike suppression effort on the Pend Oreille River downstream from Newport. 

That's fine. All opinions are welcome.

But he insinuates that I "didn't tell you" something. 

Actually, I expected anglers to understand that if northern pike were left to proliferate in the river with consumption rates of more than 17 million forage fish a year, ultimately they would deplete the food base not only for themselves but also for the largemouth and smallmouth bass that anglers enjoy catching.

Leaving the non-native pike population to go unchecked had a brief window of excitement and prosperity and was already beginning to deteriorate into a lose-lose deal for everyone when pike suppression was enacted.

Pike fishing kicks off Mark’s Marine seminar series

FISHING – Jeff Smith of Fins and Feathers Tackle Shop in Coeur d'Alene will discuss fishing tactics for northern pike to kick off the 8th annual Mark's Marine spring fishing seminar series Thursday, 6:30 p.m., at 14355 N. Government Way in Hayden.

The other five free seminars to be held on Thursdays through April 10 will cover topics such as walleye, steelhead, Coeur d'Alene salmon, bass and Lowrance electronics.

  • Info: (208) 772-9038.

Smith has been a fixture on Lake Coeur d'Alene since 1984. He's been fishing our local lakes for more than 30 years and his Guide Service is one of the best respected and most versatile in the area. Unlike many guides, Jeff is a multi species fisherman. He is well versed in fishing for Salmon, Pike, or Bass.

His seminar is well-timed to help our Pike enthusiasts get ready for the fantastic spring pike fishing and of course the local Fins and Feathers Pike Tournament, April 26-27. Pike should begin moving as the water levels come up and Jeff will share his secrets for how to present bait to them and land those big catches. Several of the last 5 state records have been caught fishing during this period.

Colorado pike fishing issue similar to Pend Oreille River

FISHING — This story took me back to the Pend Oreille River about 10 years ago…

Northern pike have made their way into the Upper Colorado River
Utah has already put a $20 bounty on northern pike, the toothy adversary of a healthy trout population, and with a confirmed catch of the invasive predator—and, unfortunately, its live release into the Colorado River at Pumphouse Recreation Area, Colorado should consider a similar program to rid the waters of pike—which have no place in the Colorado River.

A column by Scott Willoughby, Denver Post; Aug. 7

PikePalooza continues suppression effort on Pend Oreille River

FISHING – PikePalooza is offering more than $5,000 in cash and prizes for anglers who catch northern pike in various categories during the Friday-Sunday (May 17-19) event on the Pend Oreille River.

The event on the Box Canyon stretch of the river is sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe.

Info: kalispeltribe.com/northern-pike.

The derby is part of the program to reduce numbers of the non-native species from the river.

This year, the tribe has removed around 6,000 northern pike using gillnets in the second year of a pike suppression and monitoring operation.

“The majority of these fish are age 3 or less,” said Jason Olson, the tribe’s fish conservation manager.

Pike suppression resumed last week after fish managers surveyed the river and found the spring netting had not reduced pike numbers to their target numbers, especially in the north end of the reservoir.  

The highest number caught in nets last week were a dozen in South Everett and Tiger sloughs, the tribe reported.

This spring's post-suppression survey involved a total of 197 that caught a total of 410 northern pike in a week.

However, for the first time in years of surveys and two seasons of suppression, no large pike were caught in the Box Canyon stretch survey, the tribe reports.

Northern pike on bite at Long Lake

FISHING — Anglers have been hooking up with big bass at Long Lake this week, but the biggest fish Peter Roundy landed was a plump northern pike (above).  

On his Facebook page, Roundy said he caught the pike pictured "across from Willow Bay near the islands… big pike spawn goin on…. They're takin' over…. I caught six on Tuesday; two on Monday.

May pike derby part of pike control on Pend Oreille River

FISHING — Northern pike gillnetting that started last spring on the Pend Oreille River will be continued this year in the effort to keep the pike population roughly 90 percent lower than it was at this point last year in Box Canyon Reservoir area.

Starting in early March, crews from the Kalispel Tribe Natural Resources Department will use gillnets to remove the invasive species from the reservoir and will work with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to monitor the results.

  • Sportsmen will be rewarded for contributing to the pike control effort with big cash prizes offered in a northern pike fishing derby May 17-19, sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe.  Info: (509) 447-7290. Two of the Pikepalooza events were held last year.

"Northern pike are voracious predators that pose a significant threat to native fish species," said Bruce Bolding, WDFW warmwater fish program manager. "They can cause a great deal of ecological and economic damage."

Click "continue reading" for more details from the WDFW media release posted this morning.

Unlimited fishing at Fish Lake through Oct. 21

FISHING — In preparation for a fall rotenone treatment to get rid of scrap fish and northern pike, catch limits will be lifted starting Saturday at Fish Lake off the Cheney-Marshall Road.

Ditto for Little Beaver Lake in Okanogan County.

Read on for all the details from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Anglers can cash in at Pend Oreille’s Pikepalooza

FISHING CONTESTS — Sign-up is underway for the season’s second Pikepalooza fishing derby on the Pend Oreille River, Friday through next Sunday, sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe.

Prizes up to $1,000 are being offered in a variety of categories to make the contest interesting to anglers of all ages. Categories include most fish, longest fish, total length of catch, smallest fish and tagged fish.

In addition, each fish caught gives a participant a ticket for raffle drawings.

During the first event June 29-July 1, about 80 anglers endured high water and windy conditions to compete catch 81 northern pike and compete for $3,000 in cash prizes and more than $500 in raffle prizes.

  • Josh Whitney won $1,000 for catching the most northern pike —14.
  • Dale Smith won $500 for catching the largest pike of the derby — 46.4 inches long.

There’s no entry fee, but participants must pre-register before they start fishing. Online registration closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Anglers can register on site at check stations.

The event includes the river from the Idaho state line to the Boundary Dam forebay.

Even though most of the non-native pike were gillnetted out of the Box Canyon Reservoir portion of the river this spring, pike are still available to be caught and new fish are likely coming downstream from Montana and Idaho.

Info: www.kalispeltribe.com/northern-pike.

Pikepalooza proves Pend Oreille River still holds whoppers

FISHING — The gillnets didn't get all the northern pike in the Pend Oreille River.

This spring, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department and Kalispel Tribe used gillnets to remove about 87 percent of the non-native northern pike in the Box Canyon section of the river downstream from Newport. (See story)

But results from the June 29-July 1 Pikepalooza organized by the Kalispel Tribe indicate that serious anglers not only can catch a number of northern pike in the river on an outing, they also can catch some whoppers.

  • Josh Whitney won a whopping $1,000 for catching the most northern pike — 14 — during the tournament.
  • Dale Smith won $500 for catching the largest pike of the derby — 46.4 inches long!

The tribe reports that 138 anglers pre-registered and an additional 70 anglers signed up on site.

But water and weather conditions limited participation to about 80 anglers who turned out to compete for $3,000 in cash prizes and more than $500 in raffle prizes.

Although anglers faced tough fishing conditions over the weekend including high water, wake restrictions, closed boat launches, and hit-and-miss weather, the 80 anglers harvested 81 northern pike, reports Jason Connor, the Tribe's fisheries biologist.

  • 33 people registered at least one pike.
  • Pike from 286 mm (11.25”) to 1178 mm (46.4”) were harvested with the majority (74%) being 1-2 year olds less than 18 inches. 
  • No tagged pike were caught, so prizes will roll over to the next Pikepalooza event set for Aug. 3-5.

Read on for the complete list of prize winners.

Big cash prizes await PO River anglers in PikePalooza

FISHING  – Sign-up is underway for the Pike Palooza fishing derby on the Pend Oreille River, June 29-July 1, sponsored by the Kalispel Tribe.

Prizes up to $1,000 are being offered in a variety of categories to make the contest interesting to anglers of all ages. Categories include most fish, longest fish, total length of catch, smallest fish and tagged fish.

In addition, each fish caught give a participant a ticket for raffle drawings.

There’s no entry fee, but participants must pre-register before they start fishing. Online registration closes at 5 p.m. Wednesday (June 27). Anglers can register on site at check stations.

The event includes the river from the Idaho state line to the Boundary Dam forebay. 

Even though most of the non-native pike were gillnetted out of the Box Canyon Reservoir portion of the river this spring, pike are still available to be caught and new fish are likely coming downstream from Montana and Idaho.

If an angler catches a Washington state record northern — a long shot, agreed — a professional taxidermist will produce a replica of the fish for the contestant.

Info:  www.kalispeltribe.com/northern-pike.

  • A second PikePalooza is set for Aug. 3-5.

Pike reduced in Pend Oreille River, but still available

FISHING — More than 5,200 northern pike have been gillnetted out of the Box Canyon portion of the Pend Oreille River downstream from Newport this spring.  But anglers still are likely to catch them, says Jason Connor, the Kalispel Tribe's pike management project leader. 

Here's his report going into the Memorial Day weekend.

We are still grinding away at the netting. Catch has been down, but consistent. Up to about 5,200 pike removed to date. We are now catching far more juvenile fish aged 1-2. We haven't seen a lot of anglers out on the water lately. The River is still really high (2040 ft) which is 9 feet above base flows. Water is also still relatively cold.

The Clearwater Bass Anglers from Lewiston held a bass tournament last weekend but I haven't heard how they did.

There are still fish to catch in sloughs that are traditionally fished right now. As the water warms and elevation drops in June, I would target the weed beds in the main channel in the central part of the reservoir.

If I were headed out, I would fish boundary reservoir launching at Metaline Park and heading upstream. The side channels and backwaters between there and around Selkirk School surely have fish in them.

Pend Oreille River pike issue: updates, background, correction

FISHERIES — I've received several phone calls and messages following today's update on the Pend Oreille pike fishery in my Outdoors column.

I've enjoyed catchign northern pike as much as many of you, but several pike enthusiasts say I'm a spokesman for the tribes who are actively controlling walleye and northern pike.

Well, I'm not. I'm merely reporting the numbers and facts as I get them. I've also reported the opposition to the efforts and the rates of fishing interest based on pike increases.  It's there and more will come.

What my critics really mean is that I'm not ranting on their behalf. 

These are the same people who are telling me that angry pike anglers are out there moving northern pike into all sorts of trout waters.  "There are pike everywhere now," one man told me today.


Pike have been moved illegally to infest about 100 waters in Montana and people have been moving them illegally for years in Idaho.

Maybe the top question is this: If these selfish pitiful excuses for sportsmen have illegally moved northern pike into every water imaginable, what more do they want?

I'll keep reporting the facts and I'm keen to share different opinions, but don't ask me to respect anglers of that ilk.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

The newspaper print version of my Thursday outdoors column has a confusing error as updated the current effort to reduce the number of northern pike in the Pend Oreille River behind Box Canyon Dam.

I've corrected the error in my column as it's posted on the web.

In giving the number for the bycatch of non-target species, I substituted "northern pike" for "yellow perch."  Pike, of course, are the targt species.

Here are links to some of the previous stories and background I've compiled about the northern pike issue in the Pend Oreille River:

April 12: Anglers encouraged to fish for pike.  (Includes public boat launch guide for Box Canyon Reservoir)

April 8Gillnets set to remove 5,700 pike from Pend Oreille River.

March 29: Officials take stance against northern pike, ask for angler help.

Feb. 12: Northern pike forecast: fewer, farther between.

April 17, 2011: Biologist ponder options for PDO River pike boom.

April 17, 2011: Pike prompt three surveys on Pend Oreille River.

June 6, 2012: Pike boom in Pend Oreille River.

June 22, 2008: Pike explosion lures anglers, researchers.

Tonight: biologists explain plan for Pend Oreille River pike

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe will present their plan to reduce northern pike numbers in Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River at meetings, starting at 6 p.m.:

Tonight: CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.
Thursday: Community Hall, 2442 Black Road, Usk.

Fish managers plan to put out nets this spring to begin reducing the population of non-native pike in Box Canyon by up to 87 percent.

See Sunday's S-R story about Washington's plan for dealing with non-native northern pike.

Click here to see WDFW information on northern pike and reports regarding Pend Oreille River fishery surveys.

Biologists explain plan to reduce pike in Pend Oreille River

FISHERIES MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe will present their plan to reduce northern pike numbers in Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River at meetings, starting at 6 p.m.:

Feb. 15: CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley.
Feb. 16: Community Hall, 2442 Black Road, Usk.

Fish managers plan to put out nets this spring to begin reducing the population of non-native pike in Box Canyon by up to 87 percent.

See Sunday's S-R story about Washington's plan for dealing with non-native northern pike.

Click here to see WDFW information on northern pike and reports regarding Pend Oreille River fishery surveys.

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

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.


State asking anglers to help target Pend Oreille River pike

FISHING — It's no secret that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is more than a little concerned about the burgeoning population of northern pike in the Pend Oreille River upstream from Box Canyon Dam.

The main worry is the potential impact pike could have on salmon and steelhead smolts downstream on the Columbia River.

Today the WDFW made it official: The agency has announced it's gearing up for a spring campaign to halt the advance of the voracious, non-native fish toward the Columbia River.

State fishery managers plan to enlist anglers to remove as many northern pike as possible from the Pend Oreille River, a conduit for pike moving downstream from Idaho and Montana.

A new webpage outlines the proliferation of northern pike in the river since 2004 and the threat they pose to native fish species.

Biological surveys conducted in conjunction with the Kalispel Tribe and Eastern Washington University document a dramatic decline in native minnows, largemouth bass, yellow perch and other fish species that inhabit the 55-mile Box Canyon Reservoir.

Read on for more details from a WDFW media release, and the meat of the fishing rule change WDFW is seeking to help expedite the process:

Idaho pike anglers to close season with October tournaments

FISHING — Two tournaments in October will close the eight-contest 2011 schedule for The North Idaho Pike Association.

The group will hold it’s 10th annual tourney at Hayden Lake on Oct 1-2 based out of Honeysuckle Boat Launch.

Their season is set to close with the Fall Classic, Oct. 29, at the south end of Lake Coeur d’Alene based from Rocky Point launch.

The group's most recent contest was Sept. 10-11 at Noxon Reservoir.

Kalispell Tribe calls Pend Oreille pike ‘disaster’ to native fisheries

INVASIVE FISHERIES — The Kalispell Tribe's top Fish and Wildlife official called it like he sees it in a presentation on the invasion of northern pike into the Pend Oreille River. He was speaking this month to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Deane Osterman, the tribe’s executive director for Natural Resources, said that the introduction of northern pike to Box Canyon Reservoir has quickly become “a long-term disaster to our native fisheries.”

A story by the Columbia Basin Bulletin detail's Osterman's presentation and reasoning behind the Northeast Washington tribe's effort to turn back a wave of invasive northern pike that has devastated local fish populations. Joining the concern of state and federal biologist, Osterman warns that other areas of the Columbia River basin could suffer the same consequence — and salmon and steelhead runs could be impacted.

Referring to the Columbia's confluence with the Okanogan River, he said;

“That particular piece of water is ideal as well” for nonnative pike to flourish, Osterman said. If pike got a foothold there, they very well could tarnish salmon recovery investments made by the Bonneville Power Administration and channeled through the Council to the Colville Tribes. BPA funds the NPCC’s Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program as mitigation for impact of the federal Columbia-Snake river hydro system on fish and wildlife.

Video: Riverfront Park’s pike-catching teen featured in TV report

FISHING — It's cool that KHQ TV followed up on my Tuesday story about the Spokane teenager who surprised himself and a lot of onlookers as he hook,fought and landed a 42-inch-long northern pike in the Spokane River near the Loof Carrousel.

Joe Buster, who just turned 18, clearly is an ambassador for the sport of fishing.

A few other notes on why his story is special:

Peter Roundy at the General Store gives special attention to Joe in selecting the gear to feed his enthusiasm for the sport. Joe is a special ed student at a Spokane High School.  He's a class act.

Big fish story

Joe Buster, of Spokane, landed this northern pike in Riverfront Park across from the carousel while fishing for trout on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011 — two days before his 18th birthday. He said the fish measured 42 inches long.

While little kids were reaching for the golden ring Saturday at the Looff Carrousel, a Spokane teenager hooked the fish of his dreams just outside the door in Riverfront Park.

Joe Buster rides the city bus regularly to fish the Howard Street section of the Spokane River and rarely gets much attention from passers-by as he casts for the occasional foot-long trout or bass.

But he rose to rock-star status after a 42-inch-long northern pike smacked his Mepps Agilia spinner and torpedoed across the pool. Full story. Rich Landers, SR

Took 3 guys to help him land it! Have you ever caught a fish?


Teen bags 42-inch pike in Riverfront Park

CITY FISHING — An 17-year-old boy fishing for trout and bass by the Loof Carrousel at Riverfront park surprised a crowd of onlookers and himself Saturday by hooking a 42-inch northern pike.

Passersby got in the water to help him get the lunker ashore after it made three surging runs over 30 minutes.

But then the bad part.  He had a 42-inch-long fish and14-inch-wide cooler. To get home he had to ride a city bus.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Northwest Power Planning Council to hear about Pend Oreille pike

FISHERIES — Northern pike will be on the program when the Northwest Power and Conservation Council holds its Aug.  9-10 meeting at the Kalispel Tribe’s Northern Quest Resort in Airway Heights.

On the meeting agenda is the Kalispel Tribe's report on the problem of invasive northern pike in the Pend Oreille River. The report starts at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Among other items, at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dr. Pete McGrail of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will report on progress with an experiment to inject carbon dioxide into basalt formations deep underground as a means of reducing emissions into the atmosphere.  The experiment site is at Wallula near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers.


Oh-oh: Northern pike caught in Lake Roosevelt

FISHERIES — A fisherman on upper Lake Roosevelt Friday caught a northern pike, a non-native predator species fishery managers worry will spread down the Columbia River system.

According to Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine, the fish was landed by walleye angler Davey McKern of Kettle Falls.

Fisheries biologists have feared that the pike explosion in the Pend Oreille River would find its way downstream, where it could eventually raise havoc with salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River system. A major pike buffet at the mouth of the Okanogan River, for example, could be devastating.

Biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe have been studying the Pend Oreille fishery to get a handle on the situation — if they can.