Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Southern rarity: Northern pike pulled from river

New Athens, Ill. — Imagine Jason Smith’s surprise when he reeled
a northern pike out of the Kaskaskia River below New Athens in
mid-June.

Rare is such a catch in a southern Illinois river.

Fishing in Smitty’s at the Marina’s weekly Thursday Night Bass
Tournament, Smith, of Belleville, tossed a crankbait in some
submerged grass on the river near Baldwin and hooked one of the
long, toothy fish.

“I thought I had a dogfish at first, then I got that thing
closer and I was like ‘Man, that thing looks like a freaking
pike,’” Smith said. “I got it in and I still didn’t know for sure,
because I wouldn’t know where a pike would come from. I told some
guys I caught it, and they said they used to catch them in nets on
the river and other guys said they used to catch them by the lock
and dam.

“I’ve never caught a muskie or pike or anything off the river to
be honest. I really didn’t know there’s anything like that in
there.”

Randy Sauer, DNR fisheries biologist at Hazlet State Park in
Carlyle, said the catch was indeed unusual but easily explainable.
Several years ago, DNR stocked several of the strip-mine lakes in
Peabody River King State Fish and Wildlife Area with northern pike,
which are not native to this area.

“Some of those cool strip-mine lakes, pike can do well in
because they are well vegetated, and that’s kind of their preferred
habitat,” Sauer said. “The last couple of springs of high water,
the river probably inundated some of that River King area, and the
pike escaped into the river.”

Sauer said the odds of catching a pike in the Kaskaskia River
are minuscule.

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