Tag Archives: chief joseph dam

Northern Pike In Washington Reclassified At Highest Threat Level

Esox lucius is very much piscis non grata in Washington these days.

Northern pike were reclassified as a prohibited level 1 species, the highest designation, by the Fish and Wildlife Commission late last week, a move that will focus more resources on the fight to keep the “highly invasive” species out of the Columbia below Chief Joseph Dam and other state waters.


“The gist is that moving from level 3 to level 1 allows for higher level actions to address things, to eradicate them once they get into the anadromous zone,” says WDFW’s Eric Winther.

It means that when pike get into the waters where salmon and steelhead smolts swim downstream of the dam, the governor can declare an environmental emergency, which would trigger a wider mobilization of resources.

It’s another sign of how seriously fishery managers are taking the situation.

Illegally introduced pike have been slowly moving down the Pend Oreille and Upper Columbia over the past 15 years or so and are creeping closer and closer to Grand Coulee Dam.

It’s all but inevitable they will get below Chief Joe, and to that end, Winther has been tasked with coming up with a rapid response plan  and says measures could include gillnetting.

That has already proven to be effective for targeting spawning flats on Lake Roosevelt and Box Canyon Reservoir, where pike gather in spring, he says.

As area tribes, WDFW, public utility districts have teamed up to control pike, knowledge of where northerns go to procreate is increasing.

Winther says other possibilities could include chemical treatments, though he notes rotenoning would be difficult in the Columbia outside of perhaps isolated bays, while long-line fishing is also being considered.

He says that elevating pike to level 1 also means that eDNA tools can be brought into the battle. A newfangled type of early-warning system, essentially the environment — water in this case — can be scanned for traces of pike poo, scales, mucus, etc., etc.

Even as Caspian terns, walleye, harbor seals and other piscovores chomp down heavily on young Chinook, coho, steelhead and other seagoing fish, the relatively early stage of the pike outbreak and their lower numbers mean we’re in a better place than with those other issues.

“Once you’ve got a problem, it costs a lot more to deal with it,” Winther says.

Pike prefer to eat fish with soft rays, like salmonids, which are hugely important to sport and commercial fishermen and tribal fishermen, and more and more emphasis is also being placed on getting more Chinook into the ocean for starving southern resident orcas to eat as returning adults.

Winther says that the state Invasive Species Council will be requesting money for eDNA testing as well.

The change in classification was approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission during its conference call last Friday. It was first reported by the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

Winther says that he hopes to have the response plan out for review by the end of the year.

In the meanwhile, efforts will also be made to increase public awareness about the danger of northern pike through brochures, stickers and sportsmen’s shows.

It’s believed that the fish were illegally introduced into the Pend Oreille River from Idaho’s Lake Couer d’Alene system, where they’d been illegally introduced after being illegally introduced in western Montana waters.

“We’re letting people (who catch one) know to kill it and report it. That helps us get a handle on this,” Winther says.

There is no limit on pike in Washington. As I once advised after a bass angler inexplicably released one illegally placed into Lake Washington, if you catch a northern, “Slash its gills, slit its belly, hack it in half, singe the carcass over high heat.”


Editor’s note: The initial version of this blog misreported the new classification of pike as level 3. Rather, they were reclassified as a level 1 prohibited species. We regret the error.

Colvilles Aim To Release Returning Chinook Into Rufus Woods, Lake Roosevelt

The Colville Tribes hope to move surplus Chinook above two upper Columbia dams where the ocean-returning salmon haven’t been for as much as three-quarters of a century.


Construction of Grand Coulee Dam and then Chief Joseph Dam without fish ladders ended passage past Bridgeport, but the tribes want to release adults that returned to Wells Hatchery into the reservoirs behind each this summer.

They’ve got a state permit to do so in Lake Rufus Woods, according to an article in the Tribal Tribune earlier this week, and plan to get another for Lake Roosevelt.

The news outlet describes the bid as “part of a ‘cultural release'” and report it is dependent on whether the salmon first pass testing for IHN, an infectious virus that affects fish.

The salmon are otherwise distributed to tribal members.

Ahead of any possible action, tribal fish and wildlife managers put out a call to elders and other Colvilles for comment.

“We’re to the point that we could have fish ready to move by the end of this month or the first part of August,” CTFW Director Randy Friedlander told the Tribune.

There have been increasing talk about bringing salmon back to Washington’s Upper Columbia and the British Columbia side of the international river.

It does seem a bit of a long shot as a way to jumpstart a run, as for any salmon that are released in the reservoirs, the next challenge would be for the fish to find gravel, for the eggs to hatch, for the smolts to make it over or through the first two dams without any kind of surface collectors, survive the rest of their downstream and ocean migration, and then return to some point below the dams and be collected to spawn the next generation.

But you gotta start somewhere and it’s clearly very important to do so to the tribes.

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Female Pike Caught 10 Miles Of Grand Coulee Dam

A 6.2-pound female northern pike that could have spawned next spring was instead fortuitously netted about 10 miles of Grand Coulee Dam in what’s believed to be the furthest downreservoir capture of the invasive nonnative predator fish so far on Lake Roosevelt.


It and a 27.5-pounder caught near the head of Roosevelt’s Spokane Arm mark temporary victories in the fight to keep the species out of the Columbia River’s anadromous zone.

The two pike were captured by the Colville and Spokane Tribes, respectively, during recent surveys throughout the reservoir and were first reported by KING 5 in a segment that aired last night.

The worry is that the fish will eventually get below Lake Rufus Woods and Chief Joseph Dam, which marks as far upstream as salmon and steelhead can travel on the Columbia, and wreak havoc on ESA-listed Chinook and steelhead at the mouth of the Okanogan River and below.

Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in recovering those stocks and others in the Inland Northwest.

Unfortunately, pike are moving that way as inexorably as water flows downhill.

They were likely moved illicitly by bucket biologists from Idaho’s Lake Couer d’Alene drainage into Washington’s Pend Oreille River, and from there were flushed downstream into the Columbia during high spring runoff.

The species established itself near the mouths of the Kettle and Colville Rivers on Roosevelt, but has been dropping further and further downlake,

They may even already be in Rufus Woods, if anecdotal angler reports are any indication. State fishery biologists are worried about that possibility.

WDFW and the tribes have been working hard for several years to reduce pike numbers, eradicating as many as possible through gillnetting.

The Colvilles are also in the second year of a program that offers anglers $10 a head for any northerns they turn in.

While meant to help protect Lake Roosevelt’s rainbow trout, kokanee and other fish populations, a poster says that any pike caught downstream in Rufus Woods and even the Wells Pool can also be submitted for cash.

The program was the inspiration behind Northwest Sportsman‘s offer of $50 for any caught in Lake Washington, where two have shown up since January 2017.