In the coming weeks, FWP will follow up on the recent northern pike discovery in Lake Mary Ronan. According to FWP Region One Fisheries Manager Mark Deleray, biologists will conduct sampling in an effort to confirm pike presence and distribution, and determine if the illegal introduction has resulted in the establishment of a pike population in the lake. Sampling will include beach seining and gill nets. “We will be trying to confirm whether or not any reproduction has occurred,” Deleray said. These actions are called for in a new Fish and Wildlife Commission policy on illegal fish introductions. Deleray noted that in annual summer sampling to date, no pike have been captured in FWP monitoring nets regularly set at the lake.
Two northern pike were caught in Lake Mary Ronan on June 26 by an angler from Missoula. These were the first pike to be reported from Lake Mary Ronan, and it is assumed that these fish originated from an illegal fish introduction. Known as “Bucket Biology,” illegal fish introductions have caused problems in hundreds of waters across the state, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to rectify. In most cases, the illegal introduction cannot be undone often leading to lost fishing opportunity. Biologists are concerned that pike could impact the valuable kokanee salmon and trout fishery in Lake Mary Ronan. Kokanee in Lake Mary Ronan serve as the egg source for stocking in lakes across Montana.
Recently, the Fish and Wildlife Commission took action to strengthen FWP’s response to illegal introductions. FWP will now launch an investigation to confirm the presence and distribution of the introduced species within 30 days, and formulate a plan for responding to, and potentially suppressing or removing, the illegally introduced fish. The actions are part of the response outlined in the new Commission policy.
FWP is asking anyone (not just anglers) with information on who introduced pike into Lake Mary Ronan to call 1-800-TIP MONT. Angler groups from across Montana have come together to increase the reward to $4,250 for information leading to conviction for illegally introducing fish. Callers do not need to identify themselves and may be eligible for a cash reward. Anglers are encouraged to keep any pike caught and report additional sightings of pike to FWP at 752-5501.
(Report by Montana FWP)