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Northern pikeminnow

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Northern pikeminnow
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Cyprinidae
Genus: Ptychocheilus
P. oregonensis
Binomial name
Ptychocheilus oregonensis

The Northern pikeminnow, Columbia River dace or colloquially Squawfish (Ptychocheilus oregonensis) is a large member of the minnow family, Leuciscidae.[2] This predatory freshwater fish is native to northwestern North America, ranging from the Nass River basin to the Columbia River basin.[2] A good deal of concern has been expressed regarding the impact northern pikeminnow populations may have on salmon in Columbia and Snake River impoundments.[3]


Until 1999, when the American Fisheries Society officially changed the common name to pikeminnow, the four species of Ptychocheilus were known as squawfish. The renaming effort was undertaken due to the word squaw being an ethnic slur for Native American women.[4][5]

Behavior and habitat[edit]

Northern pikeminnows can live at least 11 years, reaching up to 35 in (89 cm) in total length and 15 lb (6.8 kg) in weight.[2] Female northern pikeminnow reach sexual maturity at about six years, males in three to five. A mature female can lay 30,000 eggs annually. Pikeminnow are adept predators, and in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, salmon smolts comprise a large part of their diets. Their populations have flourished with the development of the Columbia River hydropower system.[6] The reservoirs have provided excellent habitat for pikeminnow and given them an advantage over depressed salmon and steelhead populations. Data has been collected to suggest they can eat up to 650,000 salmon fry annually.[7]

The northern pikeminnow has been shown to consume terrestrial insects, benthic invertebrates, other fish, aquatic insects, and plant matter.[8]

Relationship with people[edit]

Northern pikeminnow caught as part of the Bonneville Power Administration's Sport Reward Program.

While historically northern pikeminnow have not been of interest commercially nor to sport anglers, Washington and Oregon state fisheries agencies and the Bonneville Power Administration have placed a bounty[9] on them to reduce predation on scarce salmon stocks. A commercial fishery has developed based on that bounty. The current International Game Fish Association all tackle world record for northern pikeminnow is 7 lb 14 oz (3.6 kg) from the Snake River near Almota, Washington.[10]


  1. ^ NatureServe (2013). "Ptychocheilus oregonensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T202359A18233204. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T202359A18233204.en. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2019). "Ptychocheilus oregonensis" in FishBase. May 2019 version.
  3. ^ Blecha, Peter. 2018. "Pikeminnow reward program remains strong". The Columbian. https://www.columbian.com/news/2018/jul/25/pikeminnow-reward-program-remains-strong/. Accessed 8/21/18
  4. ^ "Former squawfish hooks new name". Indian Country Today (Lakota Times). September 14, 1998. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012.
  5. ^ Craig, John. "Squawfish Squawk Reels In Conundrum Insulting Fish Name Not Easy To Replace". spokesman.com. The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  6. ^ Mesa, M. 1994. Effects of multiple acute stressors on the predator avoidance ability and physiology of juvenile chinook salmon. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123:786–793.
  7. ^ Petersen, J. 1994. Importance of spatial pattern in estimating predation on juvenile salmonids in the Columbia River. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123:924–930.
  8. ^ Haggerty, M. 2009. Lake Ozette Sockeye Limiting Factors Analysis. p 2-33.
  9. ^ Pikeminnow Bounty Program
  10. ^ "Pikeminnow, Northern". igfa.org. International Game Fish Association. Retrieved 9 April 2019.