Northern pike

Large Northern pike being held in two hands

Northern pike (Esox lucius)

Common names
Northern pike
Latin name
Esox lucius
Category
Fish

Northern Pike are a non-native, highly invasive predator that has become established in Box Canyon Reservoir on the Pend Oreille River in northeast Washington. They are considered a serious threat to both native and preferred non-native fish species in Box Canyon Reservoir and downstream into the Columbia River. Northern Pike in the Pend Oreille River system are a result of illegal introductions in Montana that moved downstream in the Clark Fork River to Lake Pend Oreille, then into the Pend Oreille River and into Washington.

Their voracious appetite for other fish and prolific spawning habits represent a potential for great ecological and economic damage, not just in northeast Washington but throughout the region. The Pend Oreille River is a tributary of the Columbia River, where even salmon and steelhead could be negatively impacted by Northern Pike moving downstream.

Surveys conducted between 2004 and 2014 documented both a rapid increase in the number of Northern Pike in Box Canyon Reservoir and a decline in the abundance of forage species such as native minnows and non-native sunfish, largemouth bass, and yellow perch.

State record

WeightAnglerLocationDate Caught
34.06 lbs Bryan McMannis Long Lake, Spokane County April 9, 2004

See all sportfish records

Description and Range

Physical description

Northern pike have a long body shape, oval in cross-section (hence the name “pike”, meaning spear or lance-shaped) and have a large duck-bill mouth with big teeth and a dorsal fin located near the tail fin. They display horizontal rows of light-colored round to oval spots on a dark background.

Geographic range

The largest proportion of Northern Pike in the Pend Oreille River is in Box Canyon Reservoir, but they also live in Boundary Reservoir, just north of Box Canyon Dam on the Pend Oreille River. Anglers have also reported catching pike in the Columbia River north of the confluence with the Pend Oreille River, in Canada, downstream near Northport, Washington, and just upstream and downstream of Kettle Falls. They also live in the Spokane River from Lake Couer d’Alene in Idaho downstream to Long Lake in Spokane County. Northern Pike are a prohibited species everywhere they exist in Washington.

Invasive Species

Other western states are struggling with non-native populations of Northern Pike as well, and face challenges similar to Washington. Alaska, for example, has a large northern portion of the state where Northern Pike are native, but illegal introductions to the southcentral part of the state, where they are not native, have caused devastating impacts to native salmon and trout populations. Washington is trying to learn from Alaska’s management strategy, and for more information on their situation, see the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Northern Pike webpage.

Suppression reports

Invasive species classification
Prohibited
Invasive species family
Escocidae