Northern Pike, (Esox lucius) and Smallmouth Bass, (Micropterus dolomieu) – Management Strategy

Written by: Lindsay Bagg, Trevor Vanderkooy, Victor Del Dotto, Joe Atkinson and Brianna Grieves

Legal Factors

Lindsay, ON exists within Zone 17 as described by the Ontario Fishing Regulations. In Zone 17 there are currently few limitations set for fishing northern pike and smallmouth bass. The open season for northern pike exists all year long and opens the 3rd Saturday in June and ends December 15th for smallmouth bass. There are no size restrictions for either species but there are catch limits based upon the type of license the fisherman possesses of either 6 or 2 for each species. It is important to remember that these restrictions are only those for Zone 17, there are zones within Ontario in which Pike and Bass do have size restrictions. With 20 different zones in total there is a lot of variation. Legal implications exist for anyone who does not abide by these regulations (MNRF, 2017).

Management Strategy

Of course prevention is the most effective invasive management strategy, because once an aquatic invader establishes itself within the ecosystem, range expansion is almost inevitable and elimination is rarely a viable option (Zanden, Olden, Thorne, & Mandrak, 2004). Advocacy for responsible angling and education will be extremely important moving forward in the prevention of the further spread of northern pike and smallmouth bass. Unfortunately, with northern pike and smallmouth bass we are past the point of prevention in many areas. Establishing a set of laws and regulations that may allow angling and physical removal to be a viable method of control for populations of northern pike and smallmouth bass could be a long process of trial and error. Action could be taken by having the season for northern pike and bass open all year long in all zones where they appear as an invasive species and with no size restrictions. Limiting catch and release would be another important step towards effective management.

If laws and regulations were to be changed to allow for physical removal predicting which systems are likely to be impacted would be an important management goal. Few studies up until this point have been able to make quantitative predictions of aquatic invader impacts (Zanden et al., 2004). Though there are many studies that suggest a negative impact, further research is needed to determine whether or not invasive northern pike and smallmouth bass are truly a concern and detriment to their new ecosystems.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

As with many legal issues, making changes to laws and regulations can take time. Hoping for an overnight solution by means of angling would be misguided, to say the least. Many of the other more immediate methods of control can have a more negative impact on the system than beneficial. The huge challenge in the management of northern pike and smallmouth bass is finding the balance between negatively impacting an entire system and controlling the invasive populations. For this reason, angling seems to be the most viable option of management until more quantifiable research can be conducted regarding the impacts of these invasive species.

 Conclusion

As long as affected ecosystems are remaining stable, angling offers the best and least controversial method of management for the northern pike and smallmouth bass. Fishing selectively for northern pike and smallmouth bass has the lowest possible negative impact on the native species in the ecosystem and targets only the invasive. A re-evaluation of laws and regulations regarding the northern pike and smallmouth bass may be beneficial for complete removal but is not necessarily essential for management. Further studies regarding prediction of impact will be essential in the management of invasive aquatic species such as the northern pike and smallmouth bass. Predictions of impact will indicate which systems are most vulnerable and where to focus time and resources.

References

Zanden, M., Olden, J. D., Thorne, J. H., & Mandrak, N. E. (2004). Predicting occurrences and impacts of smallmouth bass introductions in north temperate lakes. Ecological Applications, 14(1), 132-148.

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