CONTACT:
Don Miller: 603-744-5470
Scott Decker: 603-271-2501
October 9, 2009

Big Fish / Wrong Place! Biologists Warn of Illegal Fish Introductions

NEW HAMPTON, N.H. - A recent catch from Lake Winnisquam has New Hampshire Fish and Game Department fisheries biologists sounding the alarm about illegal introductions of fish into the state's lakes. It was Labor Day 2009, and Barry Arseneau was trolling on Lake Winnisquam for trout and salmon when he hooked a big fish. He fought this monster for nearly 20 minutes before finally getting it to the boat. At first, seeing a fish of this size, he thought he had caught one of the huge lake trout for which Winnisquam is noted. But a quick look confirmed that it was instead a large Northern pike, lip-hooked on a DB Smelt lure fished 30+ feet down. A fish of this size caught in New Hampshire, or anywhere, is a real trophy, yet this fish had been illegally transported to the Lakes Region and illegally stocked into Winnisquam.

The northern pike, a large female, was 40 inches in length, with a 17-inch girth, and it weighed 18 pounds, 5.76 ounces. Given the difficulty of moving a fish this large and keeping it alive, it is possible that this fish had been illegally transported to the lake some years prior and had matured in the Winnisquam system. Oddly enough, John Viar, a N.H. Fish and Game Department fisheries biologist, had also caught a northern pike from Lake Winnisquam during May of 2009, just north of the site of Arseneau's catch.

New Hampshire has experienced illegal introductions of fish in the recent past, including rock bass, black crappie, pike, and even smallmouth and largemouth bass in numerous waters across the state. This is not only illegal, it can threaten the health of the fishery. Without a thorough evaluation, the addition of an "exotic species" to an established ecosystem can be troubling from a management perspective, and can have negative implications from the potential introduction of diseases, parasites and invasive species, as well as upsetting the balance of predator-prey interactions. "The management of fisheries should be left up to professional biologists," noted Fish and Game Large Lake Fisheries Biologist Donald Miller.

Remember -- New Hampshire law prohibits the possession of live fish when leaving a waterbody (except for approved baitfish or if the person is participating in an approved fishing tournament). It is also illegal to release fish into waters other than where they were caught without the proper permits from the Fish and Game Department. Penalties include fines (up to $1,200 for each fish) and loss of license (up to one year) for those found guilty of violating these laws.

To learn about aquatic nuisance species, the laws and rules around possession and use of aquatic species, and what anglers and boaters can do to help stop the invasion, go to: www.wildnh.com/Fishing/aquatic_nuisance.htm.

"To the sportsmen and women of New Hampshire, please be diligent and report suspicious activities that may include the illegal transportation of fish within our state by calling 1-800-344-4262," said Miller. "I know the vast majority of anglers treasure the fisheries we are blessed with in New Hampshire; we need to enjoy them in that capacity."

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