Mid-Columbia PUDs have joined upper Columbia River tribes in an ongoing effort to prevent northern pike populations from growing and spreading into Columbia River salmon habitat below Lake Roosevelt.
Grant, Chelan and Douglas county PUDs have erected warning signs at popular fishing locations, tested reservoirs for northern pike DNA, trained staff to identify them on fish ladders, and developed plans to respond if northern pike are detected below Chief Joseph Dam. A lot of their effort is focused on education.
“These things are nasty, voracious predators,” Mike Clement, lead biologist for Grant PUD said in his agency’s news release. “This is a critter we don’t want anywhere near salmon.”
“Stop the invaders!” the headline on a July blog post from Chelan County PUD read.
Signs with pictures of the invasive predator and warnings not to release them if caught have been erected at a couple dozen boat docks, state parks and PUD recreation areas from Priest Rapids Dam to Wells Dam. They include a warning never to move live fish from one body of water to another, and instructions for reporting the catch to the Washington Invasive Species Council.
The PUDs had northern pike programs before this summer, but their efforts grew in May after participating in a multiagency training session on northern pike eradication efforts in Lake Roosevelt with the Colville, Spokane and Kalispel tribes, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Park Service.
Using 475 gillnets and 10 boats, the agencies removed 433 northern pike—and prevented 2.16 million eggs from being laid—in one week.
This summer, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council learned that northern pike are likely to eventually spread into the middle and lower Columbia River, and that early detection and rapid response will be essential for keeping it in check.
Meanwhile, PUDs are beefing up their programs. Chelan is spending less than $100,000 a year on its suppression and education program, and contributing to the overall effort in the upper Columbia, spokeswoman Kimberlee Craig said in an email. In conjunction with the Priest Rapids Coordinating Committee, Grant has committed $350,000 for northern pike removal through 2021, spokeswoman Christine Pratt said.
Grant PUD is also regularly taking water samples and testing them for northern pike DNA in both Priest Rapids and Wanapum dam reservoirs, while Douglas County PUD tests the waters in Wells Dam reservoir.