After a night of sitting, nets pulled up northern pike in Tiny Lake last Friday.
The mesh gillnets in the previously non-infested lake produced pike measuring from 9 to more than 25 inches, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game Sportfish Area Manager Robert Begich. He believes that the well-developed pike indicate that the species was introduced two years ago.
The small lake appears to be landlocked. Begich suspects that the area is a victim of illegal stocking.
"More than likely someone took pike in a bucket and dumped them in that pond," said assistant sportfish manager Jason Pawluk.
The department responded to public reports received in the late summer. The area manager plans to continue netting and include the lake in its management plan for the Soldotna Creek drainage. U.S. Fish and Wildlife local supervisor Doug Palmer said that Fish and Game has entered into a cooperative agreement with the federal service to manage the infestations along the creek system.
Tiny is 100 yards west of Denise Lake, which connects to the system. The department said that netting at a nearby water body produced no pike.
Begich plans to analyze Hall Lake, where pike were discovered this summer, to determine its depth, surface area and whether the outlet to the Kenai River flows steadily year round.
The department places a high priority on eliminating the predatory species, but Begich said that nothing will be done until late October.
"Our plate is overflowing," he said.
The area manager said that his department has taken genetic samples of the pike to ascertain their subspecies, and, potentially, place of origin. The initial sampling will produce a database for future sampling.
Begich predicted that the incidents were perpetrated by multiple individuals.
"Otherwise somebody is working awfully hard to wreak havoc on our local lakes," he said.
According to Alaska state statutes, knowingly releasing, transporting or possessing non-indigenous fish for the purpose of release is a misdemeanor. Those guilty are liable for the cost incurred for removing the invasive species. Illegal introduction can also be seen as transporting without a license, another misdemeanor.
Alaska Wildlife Trooper Lt. Glenn Godfrey said that residents often report alleged criminal stocking, but investigations rarely deliver results. The troopers maintain open cases on the chance that residents come forward with information. Godfrey could think of one time when a witness reported illegal stocking.
"It doesn't take but a second to throw some fish in the lake and disappear," he said.
The department found two pike infestations this summer after a five-year lull in detection. The state found pike in Scout Lake in 2005 and Arc Lake in 2001. According to Begich, 16 Peninsula lakes are infested with pike, not including Scout and Arc. The department claims that gill suffocating chemical treatments eliminated the predator present in those lakes.
Begich said that he will investigate more infestation claims this week.
Tony Cella can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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