Large pike tagging

Published: Apr. 18, 2020 at 8:07 PM CDT
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Mike Anderson shows us a unique project involving big fish in this week's North Dakota Outdoors.

The Missouri River System, which includes lakes Oahe and Sakakawea in North Dakota, has a special resource with large trophy northern pike.

In the spring of 2016 fisheries biologists started a five-year project to see how anglers use these big fish.

"We had some questions ourselves and some anglers hit us up with some questions, too. Do we have appropriate regulations in place for the long-term good or the long-term sustainability of this trophy component of our northern pike population," said Paul Bailey, NDGF fisheries supervisor.

And if you catch a large pike its probably a fish you'll never forget.

"What we chose as a size to start tagging these fish for this study, I think a lot of anglers would agree with is about that meter-long size is definitely becomes a very memorable pike. So a meter is about 39.4 inches. A lot of those fish are at least going to be in the upper teens pound range and a lot of them are definitely going to be well over 20 pounds," Bailey said.

Fisheries biologists are getting a large enough sample size now to start making management decisions for the future.

"In the first three years of this project we tagged two hundred fifty northern pike in Lake Oahe. To-date, anglers have reported harvesting about 6% of those fish their first year at large. So the biological information we have on this pike population says we should be able to maintain a harvest level of about 18% without impacting the future trophy potential of this fish population. So right now, it looks like our current regulations are adequately protecting this fish population from any type of overharvest that might be occurring," Bailey said

Around 250 large pike have been tagged in Lake Sakakawea as well, and results are similar to Lake Oahe.

If you are lucky enough to catch one of these tagged fish, treat it like you normally would.

"Each fish is tagged with an individually numbered tag. So if an angler happens to catch one of these fish, go ahead, take your picture, treat that fish like you ordinarily would. If it's a fish you're going to harvest or mount, feel free to do so. But please report that tag information back to North Dakota Game and Fish Department. And an easy way to do that is giving us a call or on our website," Bailey said

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