History of Northern Pike Program
Rhode Island Freshwater Fishing
Phillip Edwards, Supervising Biologist – Freshwater and Diadromous Fisheries
Northern Pike (Esox Lucius) were first introduced to Rhode Island waters in the 1960’s. Periodically, since then, RIDEM Division of Fish and Wildlife has stocked selected lakes and ponds with northern pike at various life stages (fry, fingerlings, or sub-adults). Between 1980 and 1992, Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife (RIDFW) partnered with USFWS Sports Fish Restoration Program and raised pike at the Arcadia Warm Water Hatchery for stocking into RI systems. Eggs were collected and fry were raised at the hatchery. Hatchery ponds and Burlingame Marsh were utilized as nursery areas as the fry developed to fingerlings (6 to 8 inches). During this time frame, fingerling pike were stocked annually into Chapman Pond, Johnson Pond, Waterman Reservoir, Worden Pond, and Stump Reservoir. The project ended in 1992. The pike program was revived in 2000 when the five previously stock ponds were reactivated and stocked annually with eight to twelve inch sub-adults from out-of-state sources. These stocking efforts were discontinued in 2007 due to the cost of raising sub-adult pike and transportation issues; therefore, the pike program remained dormant until 2014.
In 2014, for the first time since the USFWS program ended in 1992, RIDFW applied for a USFWS Sports Fish Restoration grant, titled Northern Pike Management. The objectives of the new pike project are to:
- maintain a northern pike fishery in selected RI ponds and lakes by developing a long term annual stocking and monitoring program;
- evaluate stocking success and population sizes by monitoring stocked systems via electrofishing and net surveys and through the implementation and analysis of angler survey cards.To accomplish the Northern Pike Management objectives, the project currently acquires eggs, fry and fingerlings from out-of-state sources as they become available, and collects adult broodstock pike from the previously stocked RI ponds. In early spring, fyke nets are set and checked daily. Once adult pike are collected and transported to Arcadia Hatchery, they are spawned and the eggs collected. The spawned adults are measured, weighed and scales are sampled to determined age and then released. The pike fry are fed brine shrimp and shiners and raised to fingerling size (6 to 8 inches) in the rearing ponds. Each fall the rearing ponds are drained and the juvenile pike are collected and stocked into selected RI systems.
Pike populations in the stocked systems are monitored by various methods including electrofishing and net surveys. Catch per unit effort (CPUE), age data and length-frequency distributions can be used to assess current pike stock sizes and to evaluate stocking success. In addition, RIDFW plans to implement the use of volunteer angler survey cards to obtain data on ice fishing catch and effort for northern pike.
Northern Pike are not believed to naturally spawn in RI waters but have become a popular freshwater fish species in RI, targeted year round by anglers both through the ice and on open water. The use of ice fishing tilts and jigging rods with live bait is commonly used during the winter months while spoons, bright spinner baits, soft plastics and live baits are popular open water fishing techniques. Pike are large aggressive carnivores that feed on a variety of fish, small mammals and young waterfowl. Life expectancy in RI waters is thought to be around 15 years. Pike can be distinguished from chain pickerel by the lack of scales on the lower half of the gill cover. The chain pickerel’s gill covers are fully scaled. The Rhode Island state record pike is 47-1⁄2 inches in length and weighed 35 pounds. Pike over ten pounds are frequently reported from the five stocked ponds.
Fishing for northern pike in RI is open year round with a 2 fish daily limit and 24 inch minimum size. RIDFW plans to continue stocking and monitoring pike in Chapman Pond, Johnson Pond, Waterman Reservoir, Worden Pond, and Stump Reservoir to enhance fishing and to provide anglers the opportunity to catch a trophy fish in Rhode Island.