Anglers turned in the heads of nearly 1,100 northern pike caught at Lake Roosevelt for cash this year, part of a multipronged effort to keep the unwanted invasive species from getting further down the Columbia system.
The news was reported in the December quarterly newsletter of the Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department, along with word that the reward program will begin again Jan. 1 and run throughout 2018.
According to the newsletter, Colville officials paid out more than $10,000 for the 1,095 heads dropped off in bags at two drop stations since May 1, mostly since mid-July when the catch stood at 216.
Six anglers received the maximum available per fisherman, $590.
The year’s tally didn’t surprise Bill Baker, the WDFW district fisheries biologist in Colville.
“At $10 a head, there’s some incentive there,” he noted.
WDFW’s position couldn’t be more clear: “Pike are a problem, not an opportunity,” reads a line in an October update on the situation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The state and Colville and Spokane Tribes are working together to try and keep the pike, which came down through the Columbia system from Canada, Idaho and Montana, from getting past Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph Dams.
“We are concerned about the impacts pike are having on native fish in Lake Roosevelt, primarily redband trout, kokanee, white sturgeon and burbot,” Holly McLellan, a tribal fisheries bioloigst, stated in the newsletter. “If the northern pike are allowed to expand downstream into the mid and lower Columbia River, they have the potential to compromise recovery efforts for ESA listed salmon species.”
The furthest down Lake Roosevelt they’ve been discovered so far is the Hunters area.
State biologists also told the Fish and Wildlife Commission that suppression netting this year had removed another 1,083 northerns, largely at the mouths of the Kettle and Colville Rivers, and around the corner at Singers Bay.
Most were very young, but one weighed 26 pounds and went 44 inches long.
Editor’s note: The $10 reward is open to all licensed anglers, tribally and state-licensed alike. An earlier version of this misspoke by suggesting it was just available to tribal anglers. My apologies.