Friday, May 7, 2010

Esox Lucious: Not Every Angler's Cup of Tea

Photo Courtesy Montana Pike Masters

Esox Lucious, translates to Water Wolf and for good reasons; not the least of which like their land locked cousins (not really) pike rank numero uno among freshwater piscatorial predators...killing machine is not overstating it.

For reasons escape me pike are most commonly labeled northern pike or great northern pike or in many circles simply northerns. Are there southern pike? And why great northern? Are there lesser northern pike? Northerns is also a misnomer since pike are found all across the U.S. many south of the Mason Dixon Line. But regardless what you choose to call him, mention his name in most any angling circle and don't be surprised to find yourself embroiled in a lengthy conversation; mention the hated word amongst trout lovers and you will find yourself in one damn long and likely heated debate. 

In Montana pike are native only to the Saskatchewan River drainage. Elsewhere he is an alien, for the most part an illegal one at that. According to Jim Vashro, Northwest Montana's chief fisheries biologist the problem with pike isn't so much the fish itself but the bucket biologists who apparently won't rest until every sort of gamefish is well established in every body of water.

Having said that Vashro goes on to say he's not against having a healthy pike fishery and he doesn't believe pike will wipe out trout since their primary victims are forage fish he just doesn't want to see them take over everywhere. Not all trout fishers of course agree and the beat as they say goes on....

I just returned from Seeley Lake one of a string of lakes on the Clearwater River. For many years now the pike population there has been steadily increasing. Yes, trout remain a big part of the local picture but most locals will tell you the fishery is nothing like before pike came on the scene.

Back in the day I chased pike all over eastern Canada in the best pike waters we rarely found large populations of native brook trout but we did find brook trout and most of them were larger on average than where pike were absent. I'm told the reason the average Labrador brook trout is measured in pounds is simply because of the heavy pike predation....the dumb and weak perish and only the strong survive...sounds good anyway. 

That said, bucket biologists are not only criminals they're downright dumb...

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