Northern pike Esox lucius were sampled in Nebraska's Sandhill lakes during 1998 and 1999 to determine population characteristics and their influence on the fish community in these shallow, warm lakes at the southwestern edge of this species' natural range. Density-dependent growth, size structure, and condition were not evident in the northern pike populations sampled. Relative abundance of largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides was positively related to size structure of yellow perch Perca flavescens and bluegills Lepomis macrochirus when northen pike were absent. When northern pike and largemouth bass populations were sympatric, these relationships were less evident. Population size structure of yellow perch was lower in lakes with northern pike, but decreased size structure was not evident for bluegills. Northern pike growth decreased with July bottom water temperature, which ranged from 20??C to 25??C. Recruitment patterns of northern pike in the Sandhill lakes appeared to be lake-specific, strong and weak year-classes occurring in the same year among different populations. Northern pike in these shallow, warm lakes act as a top-down predator and appear to structure fish communities predominated by largemouth bass and panfish. Biologists managing warmwater Midwestern lakes thus should consider the effect of northern pike on fish communities.
Additional publication details
Population characteristics and ecological role of northern pike in shallow natural lakes in Nebraska