Biologists Begin Tagging Study Of Pike Movement, Breeding Areas In Three Western Montana Watersheds; Anglers Urged To Report Tagged Fish

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fisheries biologists began tagging northern pike in portions of the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, and Clearwater rivers this week as part of a new study on pike movement in the Missoula area. The success of the study depends on reports from anglers who catch tagged fish.

Biologists believe the research will help identify movement patterns and extent, as well as identify key breeding areas in local watersheds.

In recent years, biologists have observed greater numbers of pike in rivers within the study area and consistent production of larger pike. While valued by many anglers, northern pike are also an introduced species that can impact wild trout populations and other species through predation and competition.

Angler reports of tagged fish are critical to the research. FWP fisheries crews will be netting and tagging northern pike over the next few months in several areas on the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, and Clearwater rivers where the fish are known to be concentrated.  Floy tags are inserted near the dorsal fin and are color-coded with a unique number.

The tags include a phone number (406-542-5520) for anglers to call when the fish are caught.  Information can also be reported online at  Anglers are asked to  report the tag number, color, location and date of the catch. Anglers reporting tagged fish will get information on their fish’s movements from FWP and will be entered in a prize drawing at the end of the summer.

Biologists plan to tag fish from early April through May and always appreciate recapture information from anglers. Research results will provide a better understanding of pike numbers, movement, and distribution to inform management of local fisheries.

This research effort comes as the state of Washington and federal agencies work farther downstream to suppress or eradicate invasive pike in Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.

State and tribal biologists in February described substantial progress in efforts to suppress pike in Lake Roosevelt, including the removal of over 18,000 fish from the reservoir, good news for salmon and steelhead recovery efforts in the “anadromous zone” downstream of Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams on the Columbia River.

The large, voracious Northern Pike, an import from Midwest lakes, were first detected in Lake Roosevelt in 2007, and Tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began efforts in earnest to remove the fish from the reservoir in 2014, recording the first removals in 2015.

Fisheries managers in charge of Northern Pike suppression efforts in Lake Roosevelt say that the fish has now been limited to the upper half of the reservoir and that their numbers are waning.

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