Kill ‘Em All And Report Your Catches: WDFW On Westside Northern Pike

With a total of 22 northern pike netted out of a San Juan Island pond so far this year and a sixth captured at Lake Washington recently, state fishery managers are rolling out a more muscular message about how utterly unwanted the nonnative species is west of the Cascades.


A WDFW press release out late this morning explicitly and in boldface font asks anglers to “kill the pike immediately and do not release it,” then take a picture and report their catch.

As somebody who six years ago this very month wrote that the proper approach with pike in any Washington water was to “chop its head off. Slash its gills, slit its belly, hack it in half, singe the carcass over high heat,” it’s about time.

“Pike can live more than 20 years, grow larger than 45 pounds, produce a large number of young, and consume large quantities of amphibians, birds, small mammals, and fish, including impacting Endangered Species Act-listed salmon and trout,” stated Justin Bush, WDFW’s Aquatic Invasive Species policy coordinator, in that news release. “If left unchecked, northern pike will overpopulate and cause significant impacts on Washington’s aquatic ecosystems.”

WDFW spokesman Chase Gunnell in Mill Creek says his agency worked across programs – Fish, Enforcement and AIS – to update their messaging around what are known as prohibited invasive species, and the new verbiage reflects what Eastside anglers have been seeing for several years.

“The … guidance has been in place for years in Eastern Washington – including pike signage at boat ramps – and folks there are likely more familiar with invasive pike, but given the increase in catches in these two North Puget Sound Region lakes this spring, we felt it important to provide clear direction to Westside anglers as well,” Gunnell stated.


Pike were first netted out of Lake Washington in 2017 by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. A bass angler caught one in 2018 but released it, leading to my murderous advice. This spring, WDFW has caught two at the big metro lake, bringing the total to half a dozen removed by state and tribal biologists as they work to reduce the number of fish that prey on the lake’s young Chinook, coho and sockeye. Lawmakers recently allocated another $700,000 to the effort.

To the north, in late February, an angler caught a northern at Carefree Lake in the Limekiln Preserve on the west side of San Juan Island. After his parents reported the catch, WDFW crews went in with gillnets. In March, they removed seven males and two female pike “with thousands of eggs ready to spawn,” and so far this month they’ve netted another 13.

WDFW reports it is coordinating with the San Juan County Conservation Land Bank, which owns the little lake, on a longterm removal plan that includes potentially lowering water levels, and ominously states that pike “may have been introduced to additional waterbodies on San Juan Island, and an investigation is ongoing.”

“WDFW biologists took environmental DNA samples from several nearby lakes and ponds to study whether pike may be present,” the press release says.

In some cases, fish otoliths – ear bones – can reveal where an individual came from and when it was moved.

Northern pike are native to the Midwest, Canadian waters east of the Rockies and Interior Alaska, but bucket biologists have been illicitly moving them steadily westward. In Northeast Washington, where the illegal release of pike sped up a native fish decline, northerns are actively suppressed by netting in Lake Roosevelt, Long Lake (also known as Lake Spokane) and the Pend Oreille River, while the Colville Tribes offers $10 per head, all part of an effort to try and keep the predatory fish out of the Columbia’s so-called “anadromous zone,” used by Chinook, steelhead, sockeye and coho smolts.

In Washington, the live possession or transport, sale or introduction of prohibited invasive species is a violation of state law.

Tipsters with information about who put pike into Lake Washington or Carefree Lake are asked to contact state game wardens via or calling (877)933-9847.

Info can also be shared anonymously by texting TIP411 (847411) and entering WDFWTIP, leaving a space and then entering case details.

Northern pike catches should also be reported by calling (888) WDFW AIS (933-9247), emailing or using the Washington Invasive Species Council form or smartphone app at