The red flag came up a little more than a year ago that a new predator was lurking in the waters of northeastern Washington that could have a big impact on salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River.
Confirmed catches were then recorded of late so now state Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians will jointly host two public meetings to share information about plans to reduce the number of non-native northern pike in Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River in northeast Washington.
The meetings are scheduled 6-8 p.m.: Feb. 15, Center Place, 2426 North Discovery Place in Spokane Valley; and Feb. 16, Usk Community Hall, 2442 Black Road in Usk.
John Whalen, a state Fish and Wildlife eastern regional fish manager, said in a news release the department and the tribe have agreed on a three-part strategy for reducing northern pike in the Box Canyon Reservoir. Starting this spring, they will be actively encouraging anglers to fish for northern pike, holding fishing tournaments with incentives and removing pike with gill nets.
State Fish and Wildlife solicited input from the public last spring on those and other potential pike control methods.
“Non-native northern pike are high-impact predators,” Whalen said. “We’re concerned about impacts to native trout and other species within the reservoir, as well as the potential for downstream impacts to salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River.”
Whalen cited biological surveys conducted since 2004 by the Kalispel Tribe and Eastern Washington University have shown a rapid increase in northern pike abundance in the Box Canyon Reservoir. Those surveys also show a dramatic decline in mountain whitefish, native minnows, largemouth bass, yellow perch and other fish species that inhabit the 55-mile reservoir.
“The current pike population is not sustainable,” Whalen said. “It’s also inconsistent with our conservation objectives, both within the reservoir as well as downstream and in adjacent waters.”
Whalen said the meetings will focus on results of surveys conducted last year and the three pike-control methods that will be used starting this spring.
State Fish and Wildlife recently launched a webpage on northern pike that provides more details on the species and the problems associated with its spread in Washington and other places.