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WDFW seeks public input on northern pike plan

by Staff report
| March 7, 2024 7:23 PM

SPOKANE — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has released a draft Interagency Northern Pike Rapid Response Plan that guides coordination and resources for species management, according to a Thursday announcement from the WDFW asking for public input.

Species management includes preventing the spread of northern pike to new areas in Washington and developing long-term management plans for northern pike, the announcement said. The draft plan is undergoing a State Environmental Policy Act review; as part of that process, WDFW is asking members of the public for input.

“This plan is important to conservation in our state as it maps out the response of WDFW and coordinating partners to a number of situations that could arise with the spread of northern pike,” Justin Bush, aquatic invasive species policy coordinator with WDFW, wrote in the announcement. “It will help to speed our response when timing is critical as partnering agencies and groups will already know their role and be prepared to respond.”

The northern pike, or Esox lucius, is a non-native fish classified as a prohibited aquatic invasive species in Washington, the statement said. It has already spread to several water bodies within the state. Illegal stocking in the 1950s in Montana rivers and in the 1970s in the Coeur d’Alene river system led to the establishment of northern pike in the upper Columbia River Basin. Since then, the species has steadily expanded downstream to include the Pend Oreille River, Spokane River, and the Columbia River upstream of Grand Coulee Dam, the statement said.  Northern pike have also been introduced in Lake Washington in King County and one was found as recently as last week in a pond on San Juan Island.

“Given their population dynamics and physiology, it is likely that northern pike will eventually expand into waters throughout the entire state,” Chris Donley, WDFW Eastern Region Fish Program manager, wrote in the announcement. “Preventative work done now will help to minimize the environmental, economic, and cultural resource impacts of northern pike later.”

Public comments can be submitted online at publicinput.com/NPikePlan or by emailing to NPikePlan@PublicInput.com. Comments can also be mailed to Lisa Wood, SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, WDFW Habitat Program, Protection Division, P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504. All comments, including mail, must be received by 5 p.m. March 19 to be considered.