Scientific name: Esox lucius
What Is It?
The northern pike is a non-native predator of popular sport fish in Washington and is a prohibited species here. It reproduces prolifically and primarily preys on fish smaller than itself, including juveniles of other species.
Is It Here Yet?
Yes. It has been introduced illegally and established populations in eastern Washington, in the Pend Oreille River, the Spokane River, Lake Roosevelt, and a couple of lakes in Spokane County. Recently, northern pike also has been found in Lake Washington in King County after being illegally introduced.
Why Should I Care?
The northern pike harms ecosystems by preying on smaller fish, which suppresses the populations of those species and limits food sources for other species. If it reaches the Columbia River via the Pend Oreille River, it could hurt populations of native salmon and steelhead trout by preying on the juveniles. For, example, in Alaska, where northern pike has been introduced illegally, it has badly hurt populations of native salmon.
How Can We Stop It?
Do not introduce northern pike to any water body—it is illegal to do so. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife does encourage people to catch and kill them before leaving the area where they were caught. Gill netting has been the most effective method of reducing the populations so far.
What Are Its Characteristics?
- Elongated body shape
- Large, wide mouth with sharp teeth
- Dorsal fin back, neat tail fin
- Grey-green body with rows of pale oval spots