[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]



 Is the Blue Pike Extinct?
Although it was declared extinct in September of 1983, the blue pike has
not disappeared from the minds of anglers. Rumors that the fish still
exist in small lakes in Canada and elsewhere refused to die. Yet there
could be no proof because scientists lacked a good sample of blue pike
DNA, which is necessary to prove that any particular fish is a true blue
pike and not simply a variation of the common walleye. 

The blue pike was once an important part of the ecosystem of Lake Erie
and a significant catch for the commercial fishing industry. One of the
few fish in Lake Erie to spawn in deep water, the blue pike preferred the
clearer portion of the lake (primarily the eastern two-thirds) and chose
deeper, colder water than the walleye. It was quite successful, providing
an annual commercial catch that often exceeded 20 million pounds (an
estimated $150 million today).

Apparently the blue pike was unable to tolerate the pollution of Lake
Erie. (Habitat changes and overfishing may have contributed as well.) The
most recent successful spawning occurred in 1954, and the fishery
collapsed entirely within three years. 

It is possible that a few blue pikes were transferred to smaller lakes,
where they never completely died out. Without the crucial DNA from a real
blue pike, scientists were unable to determine if reported fish were
really blue pike. Fortunately, an angler named Jim Anthony has been
keeping a fish in his freezer for the past 37 years--a fish that he
strongly believes is an actual blue pike.

Anthony's fish does have usable DNA, so the next step will be determining
if the blue pike and the walleye are very closely related. If they are,
they have probably interbred to such an extent that distinct blue pikes
no longer exist. If they are not closely related, the search will begin
for living blue pikes, which have been reported in Ontario, Minnesota,
Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. 

Perhaps living specimens could be bred and reintroduced to Lake Erie, but
some fisheries managers and fish and wildlife agencies are concerned
about interbreeding with walleye or destructive competition with them.

"We would love to have them back, but we want the original ones, and
that's the   key," said Roger Knight, supervisor of the Sandusky Fish
Research Unit of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. "You can build false
hopes and there may be pressure to stock blue fish in Lake Erie, even if
we're not sure they are the original blue pike. We're not about to
introduce another strain of walleye into our lakes where our walleye are
doing fine." (As quoted in the New York Times, March 15, 1999.)

Scientists hope to announce whether or not the DNA from the frozen fish
is distinct from walleye DNA this May. 


Sources: Pam Belluck, "In Angler's Freezer Since '62, Fish May Refute
'Extinction'," New York Times, March 15, 1999.
Paul Schiff, "Blue Pike," Twine Line, October 1986.


Comments |  Credits |  About Us

What's New | Research News | Fish IDs | Special Features | Kids' Page |
Site Map 

copyright 1998 University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute 
Brook Trout illustration copyright 1998 Gina Mikel
Last updated 26 March 1999 by Seaman

Robert Rice
Help Preserve our Aquatic Heritage join the NFC
Check out our Exotic Removal Program and Breeders Program at our website
website  http://nativefish.interspeed.net/