Bad situation for Pike?

Questions about Freshwater Fishing

Bad situation for Pike?

Postby Brian » Sat May 05, 2012 12:53 am

Hello all, I have a question about a lake that I have been fishing in for quite some time. This lake is a spring and creek fed lake that is mostly rocky bottom. The land was donated some time ago with the requirement that the Fish and Boat Commission turn it into a lake meant for fishing only. So, they built a 330 some acre lake with an earth dam, which really doesn't get a ton of water flow, but the water temp never gets too high as the lake sets at nearly 2,500ft elevation. The lake is restricted to electric motors only as well. Anyways, over the years, I can remember catching tons and tons of Pike. Most of them were in the 16-20 inch range, and I caught a few just over 30 inches. There were also many large smallmouth bass. I caught more than a few at 5lbs+. I had also caught a few largemouth each year, but only a few. They seemed to have a small population holding on, but nothing spectacular. I did, however, catch one about 6 years ago that was over 20 inches, and was pushing 7lbs. The one thing that always seemed to be present at incredibly high levels was weeds. During the summer months, the weeds choked the water from one side of the lake to the other, and you had to wait until fall to be able to even fish again. So, about 3 or 4 years ago, the Fish and Boat Commission decided to do something about the weeds.

Since they had to drop the water levels anyways to do maintenance and repairs on the spillway and dam, they decided to increase the drop to over 10 feet to kill all of the nuisance weeds that were choking the water and according to them, creating an unhealthy situation for some of the fish species. The lake shrunk incredibly, and you had to walk about an extra 80 feet in some places to reach the water. They left the water level down for a couple of summers to kill off the weeds. During I believe the second summer, I decided to give it a try, and the fishing was spectacular. I used up every one of my 2 dozen shiners, and switched to the dead ones, and yet kept catching more and more and more Pike. The only problem is that they looked unhealthy. They were all very thin and gnarly, a real representation of an "axe handle" if I've ever seen one. I must have caught close to 20 fish in just a couple of hours, and had roughly 30 bites in my estimation. They seemed to be uncommonly hungry. But again, they were very thin and malnourished. The water seemed to be kind of stagnant, and it was very very muddy and a little warm due to the water level drop. I returned later that fall, and caught some decent sized largemouth. This was about 2 years ago. Last spring and summer, we tried a few times to catch some fish, but we had very little luck in several trips. It was uncommon to not catch more that a few fish out of this lake in several combined trips. Anyways, fast forward to this spring. We started fishing back in late March, and to say it was cold at 2,500 ft elevation was an understatement. However, on that first trip, something uncommon happened. My uncle caught a nice 3lb largemouth bass. I also caught a smaller largmouth, and only one Pike. I was using a method that had worked in the past for smallmouth and the occasional largemouth here, rarely two in a day, though. So, the next trip, we worked a different area of the lake, but again, it was kinda chilly. That day again produced some nice largemouths. One was around 3lbs. We were perplexed as again, pike was the primary quarry with some nicer smallmouth from time to time, and only occasionally a few largemouth. So, I decided to take a trip to the lake by myself one day about two weeks ago. Again, no pike, but plenty of decent Largemouth. I was again perplexed at what seemed to be a flip in the foodchain on this lake happening right before my eyes.

Fast-forward to yesterday, and my uncle and I got together hopeful to catch not pike, but now, a few lunker largemouth in our new found bass hotspot. Let's just say that it payed off. First cast for my uncle, and his flourescent orange bobber sunk down under the surface with a "plop!". It wasn't a big fish, but it was a largemouth. So, I made my first cast with a large shiner and no weight. I slowly worked it back to shore and felt the line tighten up on what felt like a snag. But, the snag pulled back. It felt like a big big fish. I fought it for about 5 seconds, and it snapped my line at the knot. I was dejected, and after I tied a different type of knot to another hook, it didn't help that the biggest shiner in the bucket slipped out of my hands and found its way to the lake for freedom. I shook my head, pulled another big one out, hooked it through the lips, and cast my line beyond the spot where I last hooked up. As soon as my shiner hit the water, the line took off. I set the hook and realized it was another big fish. I fought it in, and jumped in the still cool water to be sure it couldn't get off before I could at least get my hands on it. It was another big largemouth. It weighed in at nearly 6 pounds and was almost 20 inches! Pretty good for PA. I took a quick picture and checked its mouth for a hook to be sure it was not the fish I had just hooked and snapped off. It was not, so I knew that it was the second big largemouth of the day in under 15 minutes of fishing. We both caught a few more largemouth, and to cap off the evening, my uncle caught another one that was nearly 5 pounds. But again, no pike during the entire day. Something I'm not used to in this lake.

I am just wondering if any of you have had any experiences like this. Have you ever seen a species that has been the primarily dominant species just disappear only to have another native species take over in a lake quite successfully? One thing I should add is that the largemouth we are catching now are incredibly healthy, and much fatter than usual. Do you think that the water level drop created unfavorable conditions for the Pike to eat/feed, and may have killed a large number of them off thus allowing the largemouth to take over in their place? Is it possible for the bass to reproduce in such high numbers in just 3 or 4 years time? I am not complaining about what I consider to be now quite good largemouth fishing for this part of the country, but could the Pike have been eliminated by the changes in the water level during the two and a half year period the water was dropped? To me, in a lake that once held the record for Muskie in the state, which was disected and found to have a 17 inch walleye in its belly, and the lake where I've heard other stories of measured 50+ inch fish, it may have been overpopulated by the mostly smallish Pike, so it may be a good re-start for the lake. What do you think? Any thoughts are appreciated.


Happy fishing
Brian
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Bad situation for Pike

Postby Hyvver » Fri Dec 14, 2012 8:30 am

Hey,
On thursday I'm going up to my grandparents place at the sunshine coast. They have two dams which have been there for a very long time and one of them are spring fed. They are also both quite clear Not brown and murky like normal dams. The dam is surrounded by plendy of lillies and it is quite deep. We stocked them with 50 yellowbelly and siverperch fingerlings in each one and they have been in there for 2 1/2 years. Im going to try catching some fish and Im wondering what bait and lure should I use I have a worm farm so plenty of worms. Should I float the bait, sink it to the bottom or try to have it half way? Would it be better to fish closer to the lillies or in the middle? Whats the best way to cook them?
Thanks,
Nick
will update with photos if I have any luck
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Re: Bad situation for Pike?

Postby dahlberg » Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:14 pm

Try all the approaches until you find one that works. I'd start out close to the lillies with my worm half way to the bottom.
for cooking I like filleted, breaded and fried!
best
L
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Re: Bad situation for Pike?

Postby aka anglinarcher » Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:47 pm

I have lived in a lot of states and have watched a lot of waters over time. I do not profess to know it all, and I can only guess what is going on in your water, but I offer my thoughts on it for your review and consideration. Do you know that one of the biggest predators on young pike is Large Mouth Bass? :idea: In fact, some work has been done on protecting the bigger LMB to keep Pike from over populating.

I have also noticed that, given time, normally about 20 years or so without major human "management" intervention, a body of water reaches its natural balance. Before that balance is achieved, I have seen prey overpopulate, predators overpopulate, I have seen some fish almost disappear only to reappear and get a solid foot hold. I am not against management, sometimes the balance is not what we as sportsman want to see (carp for example).

I suspect that the major reduction of weeds made young pike more likley to end up in the LMB stomachs. :shock: At the same time, with the water down, out of the weeds, it would be easy for the pike to eat themselves out of house and home. Of course the LMB would have had the same problem, but you suggested there were fewer of them. With the larger mouths, the LMB can take on larger food sources then a similar sized Pike. Additionally, with the warmer water, the pike and the SMB would be at a disadvantage.

It may never be clear what happened, or what will happen next, but I suspect that with the LMB as the predominate predator right now, enjoy it as long as it last. With the water back up, the temperatures will drop. As the weeds come back, the balance will start to shift. I suspect that the SMB will start to compete with the LMB first. As the weeds continue to thicken, I suspect the pike will start to compete with both. In 10 years, give or take, if major management efforts are not taken, you will see fewer LMB, just like before. You will probably see more SMB, but I don't expect it will be like before. I think in 10 years the pike will be back to what they were when you fished it a few years ago; lots of small to medium pike, good shape, but few if any trophies.

So, what do others think?
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Re: Bad situation for Pike?

Postby Pikebaron » Mon Jan 14, 2013 1:06 am

Hello Larry and Fellow Anglers,

I am a HUGE Northern Pike Advocate as well as Muskie, Walleye's and Bass too! As a matter of fact my buddy and I are in the process of finishing up the last few things with the IRS to start up a Northern Pike organization (PIKE Inc) to begin educating more people and anglers on this Awesome Fish! In reading your posts I can't help but think of what has happened out here in the Northwest in the State of Washington. A River out here, (the Pend Oreille River) near Cusick, WA was slammed with Pike, to the point where the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife came in and Destroyed the Fishery last year in 2012 by putting Gill Nets across the entire Back Bays of the River during Spawning Season. The last numbers that were passed to me were that over 100,000 Northern Pike were caught and killed ranging in the sizes from 48 inches to 26 inches. Now I can tell you I had the pleasure of fishing this amazing river back in 2010 with Muskie's Inc Chapter 60 and 57 in a tournament and the Fishing was outstanding. The only negative was the fact that it seemed as though the average fish was around 26 to 28 inches which is more than likely the main reason that this River was having so many problems with the overpopulation of Pike. The Fear that the WDFW had was that these Pike would travel down river from Box Canyon Reservoir into the next part of the river pushing them down into the Great Columbia River which is what they are trying to prevent. They believe if this happens that it will destroy the Salmon Fishery and Washington's Famed Columbia River will never be the same. The reason for this fear is the information they receive from Alaska where the Pike have taken on a Huge Role in the Yukon River as well as the Innoko River. The Northern Pike in these areas have started to grow to over 50 inches in size and are some of the largest Pike in the North American region. At this point Alaska realizes it is too late to stop this and can no longer try to destroy or eliminate the Pike so instead they are trying to figure out ways to curb them in numbers while educating other States where the Pike is a non native species. The sad truth is, I believe that if they would have just spoke with Minnesota or Wisconsin's DNR they probably could have received some great advice on what they have done to help the overall Pike populations in these regions of the Mid-West. I grew up fishing on the Chippewa Flowage in Hayward, Wisconsin and they use to have huge issues with Hammerhandles, but over time learned that just balancing the echo system with Bass, Walleye and of course Muskie that the Pike Population was able to be put in check. Amazingly for the most part I would say it has worked and the good "Ole Chip" is showing signs of what is once use to be again. At the end of the day the main key is educating and understanding, rather than using a knee jerk reaction and instantly thinking Northern Pike or any fish for that matter are a deadly species that can destroy a fishery. Good Fishing everyone, hope to get back to the Mid-West Soon. Tight Lines

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Re: Bad situation for Pike?

Postby dahlberg » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:38 pm

In my opinion, the pike would have to be on atomic overdrive to be in the same league as the problems for the salmonids created by introduction of shad, hydrodams and logging!
I've spend quite a bit of time fishing pike in Alaska and can testify they eat lots and lots and lots of their own young when the water levels drop in the latter part of the season.
I've not seen any data regarding the balance of biomass in these systems that would verify the levels of danger the pike might represent to the salmon or trout.
best
L
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Re: Bad situation for Pike?

Postby aka anglinarcher » Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:23 pm

Larry, of course you are right. Of course, as they say, there is a crime taking place in Washington State. I think that Nate would agree with this one.

As the old saying goes, follow the money. In this case, a couple of Tribes are getting MILLIONS of dollars to study, control, even eradicate the pike in North East WA State. What was a world class fishery two years ago is a barron streatch of river today.

In some states you have Fish and Wildlife Management. In Washington State, we have bribes, politics, and payoffs. Just saying ........ :x
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