Originally Published by The Vancouver Sun, May 1, 2015
By Yvonne Zacharias
Fishermen alert: the province is offering a bounty on any pike caught in southeast B.C. in an old-style bid to curb populations of the pesky fish.
If you catch a pike in the Canadian section of the Columbia or Pend-d’Oreille rivers and bring its head to the front counter office of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in Castlegar, you will gain entry to a draw for one of four $500 prizes in the form of credit for fishing equipment at participating sporting goods stores.
The draw will be conducted March 25, 2016 according to a ministry news release.
While pike are native to much of northeastern B.C., they were illegally introduced in the Pend Oreille River (same river but different spelling) in the U.S. and are now working their way downstream into the Columbia River’s tributaries, wreaking havoc as they go.
Pike are voracious predators, consuming large quantities of fish. Rainbow trout are a preferred snack. Pike also threaten native fish by competing for food.
There are serious concerns that, unchecked, pike impact the recovery efforts for species like white sturgeon and shorthead sculpin in the Columbia River.
Pike are also known to carry diseases and parasites that are potentially harmful to local fish populations.
The province encourages anglers to kill all pike they catch. And catch as many as you like. The more, the better.
Matt Neufeld, a fish biologist for the province living in Nelson, said pike aren’t a problem in places like northern Manitoba where they have evolved with the eco-system.
Everyone eventually learns to get along nicely. It’s the law of nature. But once they are introduced to an area where they are not native, they can be holy terrors.
It isn’t clear exactly how the fish got into the system in the U.S. Neufeld said it’s possible they were dumped there for some unknown reason. In addition to offering a fish head bounty, the province has done some netting to control the pike population.
“We might be catching this early enough to have an impact,” he said.
Some of the pike netted by the province were more than 20 pounds and the contents of their stomachs showed they had eaten three- to four-pound rainbow trout.
Neufeld said pike are edible, although “it’s always in the eye of the beholder. People love one fish and other people don’t.”
They are fairly easy to catch through regular methods like trolling, casting or netting.
Trail fisherman Don Freschi, whose television program Sport Fishing on the Fly runs on the World Fishing Network, doubts that the bounty offer will be very effective.
Fishermen in southeast B.C. go after tasty walleye and rainbow trout and for the most part, they aren’t going to bother with pike, he said.
But he agreed the province needs to act. “Pike are the worst species to have in any kind of ecosystem because they eat up the kokanee, the whitefish and the rainbows.”
He said netting pike in spawning grounds is the most effective way of reducing their numbers, adding the government appears to be doing this.
Besides being a real nuisance, Freschi said, the fish aren’t even good to eat. Too bony for his tastes.
Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Sun