DNR Q & A: The varying abundance of pike

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources field staff, resource managers and the DNR Information Center staff answer many questions every day about natural resources topics. Here is one of them:

Q. It seems like there are a lot of small hammer-handle pike where I fish. Is this true across Minnesota?

A. DNR sampling and angler catch reports show that northern pike populations differ greatly in various regions of the state.

In the northeast, pike are present in relatively low numbers and relatively large sizes. They grow slowly there but can reach trophy sizes due to limited fishing pressure across a large number of lakes.

In southern Minnesota, pike are less abundant and don’t reproduce as well as in the north, but they grow fast. Southern Minnesota has high fishing pressure, though, and pike are often harvested before they can grow to large sizes.

The north-central area is plagued by too many small pike (under 22 inches). There is moderate to high fishing pressure with high harvest of large and medium size pike. Pike grow slowly here, and a lot of small hammer-handles is the result.

DNR fisheries is exploring the idea of a zone concept where northern pike regulations could be customized to best meet the different management objectives for each zone. Such an approach could protect large pike in the northeast, increase pike populations in the south and eventually solve the problem of too many small pike in north-central Minnesota.

To learn more, and to comment on the pike zone concept, visit www.mndnr.gov/pike.

— Gary Barnard, Bemidji area fisheries supervisor

For more information, call the DNR information line at 296-6157 or go to the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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