Montreal

Northern pike caught in Saguenay-area lake sparks worry in local experts

While a local fisherman had a fun time reeling in a northern pike from the waters of Otis Lake, the fact that the animal eats anything can wreak havoc on the food chain and this has some experts worried.

Known as freshwater sharks, omnivorous pikes can disrupt ecosystems

Jean-Philippe Waltzing felt something big going after his line on Thursday and tested his luck again on Friday. That's when he caught the pike in Lake Otis. (Submitted by Jean-Philippe Waltzing)

Jean-Philippe Waltzing thought he had hooked a large trout Friday in Otis Lake, some 175 kilometres north of Quebec City, but but he was surprised to find a pike on the end of his line.

Fishermen in the area had been talking for several years about the possible presence of pike in Otis Lake and now Waltzing's catch has confirmed those rumours.

"He attacked twice, but I thought it was trout and I missed it," said Waltzing about his Thursday fishing trip. "The next day, I came to the same spot. I shot the fly directly and, boom, I got it. I didn't think it was a pike at all."

The pike is a predator at the top of the food chain, which has local experts worried as the toothy fish has been known to wipe out underwater wildlife — dining on anything it can catch.

The fact that the animal doesn't prey on one specific species and instead eats anything can wreak havoc on the food chain, explains Rémi Aubin, president of the fishing organization Promotion Pêche.

"It is a fish that takes a lot of space — a fish that is at the top of the food chain and is not naturally in that lake," he said.

Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks has been made aware of the situation, but will not comment on the issue until Tuesday.

The department mentions on its website that northern pike is an opportunistic carnivore that feeds on all that is easiest to catch. It eats mainly fish, but it can also eat insects, crayfish, frogs, mice, muskrats and ducklings.

This is why northern pike — common in much of the province and measuring an average length of 55 centimetres — are often referred to as freshwater sharks.

With files from Radio-Canada

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