Northern Pike Being Removed From Pend O'reille River - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Northern Pike Being Removed From Pend O'reille River

USK, Wash. - The population of Northern Pike in the Pend Oreille River has skyrocketed over the past few years, and fish managers say it's killing all the other fish in the area. It's become such a problem the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kalispel Tribe have teamed up to get rid of them.

The Northern Pike was first discovered in the Pend Oreille River in 2004 after being illegally introduced. Fish managers say the population has exponentially increased since 2006, and there could be as many as 10,000 living in the area now.

"At the same time we've documented a decline of just about every other species in the reservoir," said Jason Connor, Fisheries project manager with the Kalispel Tribe. The State and the Kalispel Tribe deemed this to be a major problem that could threaten the entire Columbia Basin, and in March they started the first phase of removing the fish to a more manageable level. "We're trying to reduce the population by 87-percent," said Connor.  

The two groups have set up more than a dozen nets throughout the Pend Oreille River, catching an average of 160 pike per day. They then process the fish before being composted into fertilizer.

They can't donate the fish to be eaten because mercury levels are too high.   "The population increased and so did the fishermen," said John Campbell, Owner of Pend Oreille Valley Sportsman   But some people think the Northern Pike have been a blessing.  

"It's increased the boat traffic and fishermen 20-fold," said Campbell. John Campbell is the owner of the Pend Oreille Valley Sports Shop in Newport, Washington, and would gladly give up a lot of the smaller native fish in the river so fishermen can reel in a much larger catch.   "It's been really good for business, not just my business but every business in town," said Campbell.  

But fish managers say this is something they have to do, and it would be irresponsible not to address this issue.  

"We acknowledge how important this fishery has become to the local economy and to sport fishermen, however that comes at a huge cost to every other species in the reservoir and there's risks to the rest of the Columbia Basin," said Connor.  

The Kalispel Tribe says this project is the most efficient way to remove the fish quickly. However, they still encourage anglers to catch as many as they can. They also are planning to have the first annual northern pike derby, which will be held later this summer.  

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