LAKE MARY RONAN – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will launch an investigation to confirm the presence and distribution of northern pike in Lake Mary Ronan, FWP Region 1 spokesman John Fraley said Wednesday.
A Missoula angler caught two northern pike in the prized kokanee salmon and trout fishery on June 26, and landed one of the fish, which was turned over to an FWP game warden.
Northern pike have never been reported in Lake Mary Ronan before. Fraley said FWP assumes they originated from an illegal fish introduction.
Region 1 fisheries manager Mark Deleray said state biologists will conduct sampling – with both beach seining and gill nets – in an attempt to determine if a pike population has established itself in the lake.
“We will be trying to confirm whether or not any reproduction has occurred,” Deleray said.
Deleray added that no pike have been captured in FWP monitoring nets regularly set at Lake Mary Ronan this summer.
The investigation is part of recent Fish and Wildlife Commission changes in policy to strengthen FWP’s response to illegal introductions. The new policy also requires formulation of a plan to respond to, and potentially suppress or remove, illegally introduced fish.
People are also reading…
“Bucket biology,” as illegal introductions are often called, have caused problems in hundreds of fisheries across Montana, Fraley said, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“In most cases, the illegal introduction cannot be undone, often leading to lost fishing opportunity,” Fraley said.
The affect of an illegal introduction of the predacious, non-native pike into Lake Mary Ronan could extend beyond its waters. The lake serves as the egg source for stocking kokanee salmon in lakes across Montana.
Angler groups in the state have helped establish a reward of more than $4,000 to anyone providing information leading to a conviction for illegally introducing fish. Callers to the TIP-MONT hotline at 1-800-847-6668 need not identify themselves.
FWP is also asking Lake Mary Ronan anglers to keep any pike caught and report any sightings of pike to FWP at 752-5501.
Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at email@example.com.