Introductions of nonnative northern pike Esox lucius have created recreational fisheries in many waters in the United States and Canada, yet many studies have shown that introduced northern pike may alter the composition and structure of fish communities through predation. We estimated the abundance of nonnative northern pike (2002-2003) and applied food habits data (1999-2003) to estimate their annual consumption of native bull trout Salvelinus confluentus and westslope cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi juveniles in the upper Flathead River system, Montana. Population estimates were generally consistent among years and ranged from 1,200 to 1,300 individuals. Westslope cutthroat trout were present in the diet of younger (???600 mm) and older (>600 mm) northern pike during all seasons and bull trout were found only in larger northern pike during all seasons but summer. Bioenergetics modeling estimated that the northern pike population annually consumed a total of 8.0 metric tons (mt) of fish flesh; the highest biomass was composed of cyprinids (4.95 mt) followed by whitefishes Prosopium spp. (1.02 mt), bull trout (0.80 mt), westslope cutthroat trout (0.68 mt), yellow perch Perca flavescens (0.41 mt),1 and other fishes (centrarchids and cottids; 0.14 mt). Numerically, the northern pike population consumed more than 342,000 fish; cyprinids and catostomids comprised approximately 82% of prey fish (278,925), whereas over 13,000 westslope cutthroat trout and nearly 3,500 bull trout were eaten, comprising about 5% of the prey consumed. Our results suggest that predation by introduced northern pike is contributing to the lower abundance of native salmonids in the system and that a possible benefit might accrue to native salmonids by reducing these predatory interactions. ?? Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2008.
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Using bioenergetics modeling to estimate consumption of native juvenile salmonids by nonnative northern pike in the Upper Flathead River System, Montana