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NW Fishletter #383, July 2, 2018

[4] Northern Pike Suppression Proposal Gets $4.5 Million From NWPCC

Acknowledging that nonnative northern pike must be suppressed or eradicated before they make their way down the Columbia River where they can prey on salmon and steelhead, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council agreed June 13 to commit $4.5 million through 2022 to stop their progression at Lake Roosevelt.

The invasive northern pike was called an "apex predatory fish" that "quickly takes its place at the top of the food chain," in a letter supporting the proposed funding, sent by David Troutt, chairman of Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

"Pike eat any finfish that will fit in their mouths, including salmon and even other northern pike. Large adults also are known to eat voles, shrews, squirrels, waterfowl and bats," the letter states. "The Western Governors' Association identified northern pike as a top invasive species threat to our state, as has the Washington Invasive Species Council," it continues. If they escape downstream, northern pike will threaten not only salmon and steelhead recovery efforts, but the salmon fishing industry, valued at $1 billion annually, it said.

Council members did not need to be convinced.

Tom Karier, of Washington, expressed strong support for the proposal to quickly knock back the population, saying the Council does not want Lake Roosevelt to become a nursery for this invasive species. "I think northern pike are a particularly pernicious and dangerous species," he commented. "I think there are few projects that rise to this level of urgency, but this is one of them.

Karier also commended the Spokane Tribe and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation for reallocating money from other projects to fund this year's eradication efforts. According to a Council memo, the Spokane Tribe reallocated $269,222 and the Colvilles reallocated $292,858 to fund the suppression efforts this year while awaiting a continuing Independent Scientific Review Panel review and a Council decision.

Council Member Bill Booth, of Idaho, said his support comes with caveats, including an expectation that the tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will provide annual updates, and seek funding from other sources as well. He acknowledged, "This group really recognized they need to bring in partnerships . . . They are aggressively seeking additional funding."

Photo by Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife

Council Member Guy Norman, of Washington, agreed this is a regional concern, and said he's encouraged additional funding help is being sought from agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. National Park Service, along with mid-Columbia PUDs. "I don't hear any other opinion, other than the fact that this is a major issue, and the sooner we can be proactive, the risk is further reduced," he said.

Council Member Tim Baker, of Montana, said he has no doubts about the importance of the project, but added he will have to answer to his constituents who asked him to push for Bonneville Power Administration funding to control quagga mussels. "I basically said 'no,' because there isn't any money, and we're trying to protect Bonneville's future," he said.

Baker added he is more comfortable supporting the northern pike suppression funding with the understanding fish managers will come back to the Council to report how the suppression effort is going, including findings from the data requested by the ISRP, and how they are adapting their program from the information gathered.

The goal of the proposal passed by the Council is to suppress northern pike in the Lake Roosevelt watershed, and prevent them from spreading into other water bodies. The approach will include mechanical removal, angler incentives and limited monitoring and research, along with a public outreach.

Northern pike have been found in Lake Roosevelt since 2009, but in 2015, the tribes and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife became concerned by significant increases in their numbers. In addition to Lake Roosevelt, these fish were beginning to be routinely found in the Kettle, Spokane and Sanpoil rivers.

For the past few years, the Colville Confederated Tribes has sponsored a bounty in Lake Roosevelt and nearby rivers, rewarding anglers $10 for every pike head turned in at designated locations. Last year, 1,095 northern pike heads were turned in, according to a December newsletter from the tribe's fish and wildlife section.

Biologists believe they migrated downstream from the Pend Oreille River, where they have been an issue in the Box Canyon Reservoir for more than a decade. They were originally illegally introduced--possibly by anglers--in Montana, and have since moved down to the Clark Fork River before making their way to the Pend Oreille, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's website says. Washington state classifies them as a prohibited species, and anglers are allowed to catch them with no rules, and are required to kill them before leaving the water, the website says. -K.C. Mehaffey

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NW Fishletter is produced by NewsData LLC.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
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