Fish & Wildlife

Northern Pike: Three-Pronged Approach Proposed

A northern pike

You'll find this voracious predator in nearly every Minnesota lake and stream. It's one of the easiest fish to catch because it so willingly bites lures or bait.

And – big or small – they're one of Minnesota's most fun fish to catch.

But the comparatively small fish often landed – what experienced anglers call hammer-handles – cause problems in much of Minnesota, especially in the north-central part of the state.

Too many of these fish, generally less than 22 inches long, in a lake can reduce perch numbers to unhealthy levels, tip the balance toward smaller panfish and reduce the effectiveness of walleye stocking.

Pike Issues

Because pike populations differ in various regions of the state there isn't just one issue – or one solution.

In the northeast, pike are present in relatively low numbers and at relatively large sizes. They reproduce naturally. Although they grow slowly, they can grow quite large because relatively few anglers scatter 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. Southern Minnesota has high fishing pressure and a high harvest rate relative to the number of pike; however, these fish grow fast.

The north-central area is plagued by too many small pike. There is moderate to high fishing pressure and high harvest of large and medium size pike. Pike grow slowly here, and an over-abundance of small pike is the result.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

DNR fisheries has proposed the idea of implementing a zone concept for northern pike fishing. Such an approach would protect large pike in the northeast, increase pike populations in the south and eventually solve the problem of an over-abundance of small pike in north-central Minnesota.

Actual regulations have been formally presented to the Legislature and have the support of angling and spearing groups. Before finalizing and proposing the regulations, DNR expanded the dialog from traditional fishing interest groups to include individual anglers, spearers, lake property owners and citizens who want to see improvements to northern pike fishing and spearing opportunities.

After receiving comments throughout the process, DNR has prepared a document that provides answers to a number of questions raised during the comment process.

The goal is to improve pike fishing and spearing for those who are harvest-oriented as well as those keen about pursuing trophy northern pike. Working toward more balance among fish species and sizes in lakes and streams across Minnesota where pike are having a negative impact is important, too.

The northern pike zone concept

Northern Pike Zone Concept

Learn More

Watch the video at right and the click the link below to learn more about the northern pike zone concept.

Frequent Questions

In the past some experimental regulations have not seen good compliance and have then proven to be ineffective. How will the proposed zone regulations for northern pike be different?

The "zone" regulations will be different in that they will be the standard or "base" regulation, rather than being an exception. This should help everyone understand better what the regulation changes are and result in good compliance in a short time period.

How long before these proposed regulations will produce noticeable results for anglers?

Results will become evident in the different zones at different times because the lakes in each zone are different and the regulations themselves are different. In the NE zone, the objective is to maintain existing quality, so the real "results" will be maintaining the quality of the northern pike populations where they still exist. The results of the NE regulation is, therefore, immediate. In the S zone, pike generally grow fast, so results should become obvious to anglers in 3-5 years, but may occur a year sooner on some of the best lakes. In the north-central zone, results should become obvious in 5-8 years, but the long-term effects of the regulation may not be fully realized until a generation of fish has lived their life span under the new regulation regime. This could be 10 years or longer.

How long will the new zone regulations be in place before they are evaluated and someone decides whether they are working?

DNR will conduct a preliminary evaluation after 5 years and report on the progress of the regulation, but a final evaluation will not be possible until 10 years following implementation. This elapsed time is necessary to allow these pike populations to stabilize under the new regulations and for a generation of fish to live their entire life span under this new management scenario. For some waters, a final evaluation may not be relevant until 15 years have elapsed.

How will DNR measure angler satisfaction with the new regulations?

DNR will be conducting a number of creel surveys throughout the state where we can directly observe what anglers are catching and harvesting and also ask satisfaction-based questions. Additionally, the University of Minnesota will be conducting a survey of licensed anglers in 2015 and measuring their satisfaction with northern pike fishing as they are presently managed. At select times in the future – perhaps at 5-year intervals – this survey can be repeated to determine if the overall satisfaction of Minnesota's anglers has improved under different regulations.

Where exactly are the southern, north-central and northeast zones?

The boundary between the northeast and north-central zone is U.S. Highway 53.

The boundary between the southern and north-central zones is State Highway 7 from the South Dakota Border at Ortonville extending east past Hutchinson, then south on State Highway 22 to Glencoe, east on US Highway 212 to Chaska, south on State Highway 41 to the Minnesota River, then to the Mississippi River to the Wisconsin border.

What kind of public input process will the DNR use with respect to the zone regulations?

Area fisheries staff talked with local groups throughout the summer of 2015. Details about the proposal were available on the DNR website for anyone to review. More formalized regional meetings occurred in the fall of 2015 and a proposal was developed for the 2016 Legislature.

What about existing special and experimental regulations for northern pike?

Existing regulations would remain in place, except where they have been evaluated and the evaluation dictates that they be modified or dropped.

Questions or Comments

Have a question or want to leave an informal comment? Contact your area fisheries office.