The first Northern pike have been discovered in Lake Mary Ronan, marking another fishery that’s been invaded by the aggressive non-native species.
An angler from Missoula was trolling the lake south of Blacktail Mountain on June 26 when he caught two northern pike, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The first fish was lost at the boat, and the second fish was caught and kept. The angler immediately took the fish to Camp Tuffit were he was staying. The camp owner called FWP Warden Ron Howell who picked up the fish and gave it to state fisheries biologists.
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, according to Howell. 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, according to FWP. In most cases, the illegal introduction cannot be undone often leading to lost fishing opportunity.
In this case, northern pike are highly predacious and could impact the valuable Kokanee salmon and trout fishery in Lake Mary Ronan, according to state fisheries managers. Kokanee in Lake Mary Ronan serve as the egg source for stocking in lakes across Montana.
The release of any live fish into any Montana pond, lake, stream, or river without FWP authorization is strictly illegal. Penalties can range from fines of $2,000 to $10,000, loss of fishing, hunting, and trapping privileges, plus liability for the costs to eliminate or mitigate the effects of the violation. Anglers cannot move any live fish from the water in which the fish are caught.
Howell asks anyone with information on who introduced pike into Lake Mary Ronan to call 1-800-TIP MONT. 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.
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