Northern pikeminnow

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Northern pikeminnow
Northern pikeminnow.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Leuciscidae
Genus: Ptychocheilus
P. oregonensis
Binomial name
Ptychocheilus oregonensis

The northern pikeminnow, or Columbia River dace (Ptychocheilus oregonensis) is a large member of the minnow family, Cyprinidae.[2][3] 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.[4]


Until 1999, when the American Fisheries Society officially changed the common name to pikeminnow, the four species of this genus Ptychocheilus were known as squawfish.[5] The name squawfish is offensive to Native Americans and is a reminder of the brutalization of native women at the hands of early settlers.[6]

Behavior and habitat[edit]

Northern pikeminnows can live at least 11 years, reaching up to 25 in (63 cm) in total length and 7.5 lb (3.4 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.[7] The reservoirs have provided excellent habitat for pikeminnow and given them an advantage over depressed salmon and steelhead populations.[8]

The northern pikeminnow has been shown to consume terrestrial insects, benthic invertebrates, other fish, aquatic insects, and plant matter.[9]

Relationship with people[edit]

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[10] 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.[11]


  1. ^ NatureServe (2013). "Ptychocheilus oregonensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T202359A18233204.
  2. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2019). "Ptychocheilus oregonensis" in FishBase. May 2019 version.
  3. ^ "Ptychocheilus oregonensis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 26 July 2006.
  4. ^ Blecha, Peter. 2018. "Pikeminnow reward program remains strong". The Columbian. Accessed 8/21/18
  5. ^ "Former squawfish hooks new name". Indian Country Today (Lakota Times). September 14, 1998. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012.
  6. ^ Craig, John. "Squawfish Squawk Reels In Conundrum Insulting Fish Name Not Easy To Replace". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Haggerty, M. 2009. Lake Ozette Sockeye Limiting Factors Analysis. p 2-33.
  10. ^ Pikeminnow Bounty Program
  11. ^ "Pikeminnow, Northern". International Game Fish Association. Retrieved 9 April 2019.