Following the recent discovery of two northern pike in Lake Mary Ronan near Dayton, fisheries managers are surveying the popular reservoir to determine the potential presence and distribution of the voracious non-native predator.
Biologists are concerned that pike could impact the valuable kokanee salmon and trout fishery in Lake Mary Ronan. Kokanee in the lake serve as the egg source for stocking across Montana. Pike are a common gamefish that have taken over several lakes across the state due to decades of illegal introductions and are extremely predacious.
Mark Deleray, regional fisheries manager for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department, said biologists will conduct sampling with beach seining and gill nets to determine if the illegal introduction of northern pike has resulted in the establishment of a population in the lake.
“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.
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 policy.
FWP is asking anyone, not just anglers, who may have possible 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.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.