Here’s a new name to add to the list of predators threatening the Columbia River salmon and steelhead that Chelan PUD and its fishery partners work so hard to protect:
This voracious fish is the latest entry on the list of prohibited aquatic invaders moving toward our stretch of the river. Known as an ambush predator, it grows fast and big by eating other fish up to three-quarters its own body length.
The invasive species has made its way into Lake Roosevelt from Idaho and Montana where it was introduced as a game fish. (The Northern pike in the photo, caught in Lake Roosevelt, weighed in at 27 pounds.)
Chelan, Douglas and Grant PUDs are joining federal, state and tribal fish agencies in the fight to keep Northern pike from moving any further downstream.
Anglers are an ally
Alerting fishermen to the threat is a key weapon in the battle, said Bill Towey, Chelan PUD fisheries scientist. Humans are the invasive fish’s only predator.
“The goals of suppressing the threat and providing early detection are important,” Towey said. “We want to let folks here know the threat is real and that we’re working to address it.”
The effort includes new signs installed at Chelan PUD boat launches on the Columbia. They have a detailed picture of Northern pike and contact information to report catches. Anglers are urged to keep and remove any Northern pike caught in the Columbia River.
Casting for answers
Tribes and agencies are using gill nets to catch Northern pike in Lake Roosevelt to further reduce the risk. Chelan PUD will send a small crew to Lake Roosevelt for a brief stint this summer to learn about and aid suppression efforts by the Colville Confederated Tribes, Spokane Tribe and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Fishery experts also are experimenting with using set-lines, which are used now to remove salmon-eating Northern pikeminnow in the mid-Columbia.
“One of the biggest management issues we’re facing is with invasive predatory species - piscivorous (fish-eating) fish and birds and pinnipeds (sea lions),” said Towey. “We are taking the steps needed to protect the immense investments that have been made throughout the Columbia Basin in protecting and enhancing salmon and steelhead and other resident fish.
“Invasive species are a big problem, and we’re taking these steps on Northern pike to reduce that risk.”