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Montana Field Guides

Northern Pikeminnow - Ptychocheilus oregonensis

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status
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BLM:


 

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General Description
The predaceous Northern Pikeminnow is native to Montana west of the Continental Divide. It is somewhat pike-like in appearance with its large mouth and elongated body. Northern Pikeminnow prefer lakes and slow-moving waters. They are considered to be highly undesirable in some situations because they feed on young sport fish. They are effective predators despite their lack of teeth. Northern Pikeminnow are among the largest native North American minnows. Weights of over 7 pounds have been reported in Montana, with weights of nearly 30 pounds reported from Canada. Northern Pikeminnow are readily caught on bait, fly, or lure and put up a good fight but are poor table fare. (FWP) Generally 21-30 cm SL(length); may reach length of 63 cm and mass of 13 kg.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Back dark greenish, silvery below. Young have prominent dark spot at base of tail fin. No barbels.

Species Range
Montana Range

Year-round

Western Hemisphere Range

 


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1191

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)



Migration
Some Northern Pikeminnow migrate from lakes into tributary streams to spawn.

Habitat
Prefers lakes and slow - flowing streams of moderate size. Young usually school in shallow water near lake shores and in quiet backwaters of streams (Weisel 1957, Brown 1971).

Food Habits
Most kinds of aquatic invertebrates. Adults frequently eat small fish. Considered a serious predator on young salmon and trout (Brown 1971, Gould personal communication).

Ecology
Has increased dramatically in Lake Koocanusa after Libby dam was built, but they may be decreasing in the river below the dam due to low spring water temperatures causing delayed spawing (May and Huston 1979, Huston et al. 1984).

Reproductive Characteristics
Sexually mature 5-6 yrs. Spawns May-early July over gravelly areas in streams or lakes. No patental care (Brown 1971, Weisel 1957). Spawned late May-early June at 55-65 degrees F. in Blackfoot River study (Hill 1958).

References
  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Brown, C.J.D. 1971. Fishes of Montana. Montana State University, Bozeman, MT. 207 pp.
    • Hill, C.W. 1958. Observations on the life histories of the Columbia River chub and Columbia squawfish in western Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 29 p.
    • Huston J.E., P. Hamlin; B. May 1937-; Montana. Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.; United States. Army. Corps of Engineers. Seattle District. 1984
    • May, B.E. and J.E. Huston. 1979. Status of fish populations in the Kootenai River below Libby dam. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. 57 pp.
    • Weisel, G.F. 1957. Fish guide for intermountain Montana. Montana State University Press. Missoula, MT. 88 pp.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Craig, V.E. 1952. A story of fish production as it applies to Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 92 p.
    • Nelson, M.L. 1999. Evaluation of the potential for resident bull trout to reestablish the migratory life-form. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 72 p.
    • Rahrer, J.F. 1963. Age and growth of four species of fish, Flathead Lake, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 16 p.
    • Sylvester, R. and B. Marotz. 2006. Evaluation of the Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment on the Fisheries Upstream and Downstream of Hungry Horse and Libby Dams, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of EnergyBonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00 Contract No. 28350. 124 p.Contract No. 28350
    • Sylvester, R. and B. Stephens. 2011. Evaluation of the physical and biological effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment upstream and downstream of Libby Dam, Montana. Libby, MT: Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of Energy Bonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00, Contract Nos. 43309 and 48555. 282 p.
    • Sylvester, R., A. Steed, J. Tohtz, and B. Marotz. 2008. Evaluation of the Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment on the Fisheries Upstream and Downstream of Hungry Horse and Libby Dams, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of EnergyBonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00 Contract No. 28350. 124 p.Contract No. 28350
    • Sylvester, R.M., B.C. Stephens, and J.T. Frye. 2014. Mainstem Columbia Amendments Research at Libby Dam - Evaluation of the Physical and Biological Effects of the Northwest Power Conservation Council's Mainstem Amendment Upstream and Downstream of Libby Dam, Montana. Libby, MT: Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Annual Report prepared for U.S. Department of Energy Bonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Power Administration Project No. 2006-008-00. 461 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Northern Pikeminnow — Ptychocheilus oregonensis.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from