Colorado paying for pike to get them out of lake

While Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife says there is nothing they can do to get illegally introduced species out of a water, Colorado is paying anglers to catch and kill northern pike.

Here’s the story.

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. – A cash-based incentive offered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board encouraging anglers to catch northern pike at Green Mountain Reservoir resumes this year on May 25. Initiated in 2016, the reward program encourages anglers to participate directly in ongoing efforts to remove the illegally introduced predators from the reservoir.

CPW biologists say the presence of the predatory fish in Green Mountain is a significant concern. In addition to the potential impacts to fish in the reservoir, if they escape and take up residency downstream in Gold Medal sections of the Blue and Colorado rivers, sportfishing opportunities for trout could see negative consequences. If the predatory fish eventually reach federally listed critical habitat in the Colorado River, they would prey upon the state’s endangered native fishes – the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail.

“Northern pike are aggressive predators with big appetites and if their population continues to grow in Green Mountain Reservoir, that will likely have profound impacts to local fisheries in the future,” said CPW’s Jon Ewert, aquatic biologist from Hot Sulphur Springs. “This is beneficial in several ways. Anglers can catch a predatory fish and earn some money, it helps us protect fishing here, and helps with our native fish recovery efforts as well.”

You can – and should – read the rest of the story here. I’ve shared this with the Fisheries staff at DIF&W and invited them to comment. If they do, I will share their comments with you.

My thanks to John Rust for alerting me to the Colorado story.

The Other Side

Retired DIF&W Fisheries Biologist Paul Johnson also read the Colorado story, and sent me his thoughts. Here they are:

Interesting.  A bounty is a great incentive for people to fish for and remove pike from a water where they have been illegally introduced.  It could be expensive, though, and the article does not indicate an annual cost.  How much, and who funds it?  (Colorado likely has a lot deeper pockets than Maine.)

Depending on habitat conditions in affected waters, it is possible that with a lot of effort (angler hours) enough pike can be removed to “control”, to some extent, a population.  However, given northern pike’s reproductive potential it is most unlikely that a population can be eliminated through fishing, and the threat remains for out migration to waters downstream in the drainage.

Pike begin eating other fish about two weeks after hatching when they are only 2 or 3 inches long.  Anglers seldom catch fish that small, and small fish are most abundant in a population.  Finally, if “control” can be attained, success even at that level would require removals ad infinitum, which would require maintaining angler interest in and funding for the project over time.

Would it hurt to try this in Maine?  Probably not.  Would it work?  Depends where it is tried.  Would it cost?  You bet!  How much?  Depend on the extent of a program.  Who will pay for it?  ??  If determined successful, how long must it continue?  FOREVER.

Spring trap netting for spawning pike in Pushaw Pond has, as far as I know, not done a whole lot to suppress the population there, much less prevent out migration into the Penobscot River where they now have access all the way to Dover -Foxcroft.

I wish there were a silver bullet to use in every water where we have had an illegal fish introduction. Until someone invents one, reclamation is the best recourse, and its use is extremely limited by the characteristics of a body of water and its location in a drainage.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.