Was there a true blue pike, or, as the scientific community
claims, a colored variation of the walleye?

BLUE PIKE OR IS IT JUST A DIFFERENT COLOR WALLEYE?
A different view

Joe Ognibene
Veteran Outdoor Writer
This article first appeared in the Niagara Sunday Gazette

  Was there a true blue pike, or, as the scientific community claims, a colored variation of the walleye?

 According to geneticists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s aquatic biology laboratory in West Virginia, a DNA study showed no differences between samples from a blue pike and a walleye. The samples were taken from mounted blue pike in museums.

 Other researchers also have conducted DNA studies and they claim there is not enough difference between DNA samples taken from so-called blue pike that were in museums and fresh caught walleye to make any difference.

 Carol Stepien, an aquatic-biologist who heads the Great Lakes Environmental Genetics Laboratory at Cleveland State University, said, “There are all kinds of different colors of walleye, but they’re not different fish.”

 She also said her studies showed no appreciable differences between what has been called blue pike and walleye. Most of us know walleye come in many different shades of green to almost black. In Lake Kesagami in northern Ontario, Mike Fox and I found at least three distinct color variations of walleye. The colors ran from a light green back with a pale belly to a brighter green and amber-colored belly. In shallow water near peat moss outcroppings, the walleye we caught were almost black on top with a bright gold belly.

 It’s hard to argue with scientific fact and DNA studies have proven to be more than accurate, but still a doubt remains for many of us.

 Many years ago, when we caught blue pike on the sand bar out in front of Fort Niagara, the fish were mostly all the same size. We kept the ones that weighed in around a pound and a half to two pounds. These were the “eaters.” I don’t remember catching any blues much bigger than that. I never heard of a blue pike weighing 10 pounds or more, such as some of the walleye, or yellow pike, we used to routinely catch in the Stella Drift.

 Back then, the rule was always fish the bar if you wanted lots of fish and the Stella drift if you wanted large yellow pike, as we called walleye. If memory serves me correctly, there wasn’t much difference in taste between a blue and a yellow.

 

“Today’s findings are in conflict with scientists, who in 1926 formally declaring the blue pike a different species. Back then, DNA was unheard of and blue pike commercial catches were tallied in the millions of pounds.”

 

Text Box: “Today’s findings are in conflict with scientists, who in 1926 formally declaring the blue pike a different species. Back then, DNA was unheard of and blue pike commercial catches were tallied in the millions of pounds.”

It seems strange that we can catch walleye, or yellow pike if you prefer, in the lower Niagara that range in weight from a pound or so to well over 10 pounds on the same fishing trip unlike the consistent weights of blue pike catches. With less pollutants entering the river, the walleye population is coming back strong. Much of the credit goes to the Niagara River Anglers Association as well as fish that have migrated across Lake Ontario from Bay of Quinte, but there are not the schools of same size walleye similar to what used to be with blue pike. Stepien said in the late 1990s she found blue-colored walleye caught in a Canadian lake had the same DNA as fish caught in Lake Erie, proving the Canadian fish were walleye and not blue pike. She said the color could come from the particular area in the lake or river where the fish lives. She said color variation is similar to puppies from the same litter. “Some can be brown or white, others yellow, but they are all the same puppies except for the color.”

 Today’s findings are in conflict with scientists, who in 1926 formally declaring the blue pike a different species. Back then, DNA was unheard of and blue pike commercial catches were tallied in the millions of pounds.

 Records show that between 1950 and 1957 the annual take was 26 million pounds. In 1964, less than 200 pounds went to market. Shortly after, the United States and Canada declared the blue pike extinct. If today’s scientists are correct, why haven’t the huge schools of blue-colored walleye recovered similar to the “yellow pike?” An important point that cannot be overlooked is the appearance of the blue pike by comparison with the walleye. The blue had a more pointed nose and much larger eyes.

I’m sure this argument will go on for a long time and no firm answer will be found. Gary Isbell, head of the Ohio fisheries research program, pretty much summed it up when he said it’s time for anglers and scientists to give up the quest for a blue pike.

 “We’ve got serious issues on Lake Erie with other species,” he said. “The blue pike are gone; it’s time to get over it.


IS THERE/WAS THERE A BLUE PIKE? YOU DECIDE!
[OR JUST ASK SOME OF THE OLD TIMERS THAT MADE A LIVING NETTING THEM!]

Mark Daul, Outdoors Niagara .com

 The picture shown below is from a USFWS field guide/brochure that was being prepared at one time [about 1997] describing the difference between a blue pike and a yellow pike. Unfortunately, from my sources, the field guide/brochure never materialized. The guide was intended for fishermen to take on their fishing trips up into Canada where there had been reports of “blue walleye”.

The eye of the blue pike, bottom, is much larger than it's cousin,
the yellow pike or "walleye", top.

Text Box:   The eye of the blue pike, bottom, is much larger than it's cousin, the yellow pike or "walleye", top.


Here is an example of something you will find on our website and nowhere else.

“Protective measures already taken: In 1969, a pair of Lake Erie Stizostedion, believed to be blue pike, were spawned at the Pennsylvania Fish Commission's Linesville Fish Culture Station. About 9,000 of the fry were transferred to Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery at Yankton, South Dakota. Some of the fingerlings were stocked in an isolated lake in northern Minnesota.”
Remarks: Data submitted by Dr. Stanford H. Smith, National Marine Fisheries Service, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Region 3, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Twin Cities, Minnesota.

The following is an example of an email received and as seen on our website; Hello, I read your article and I loved it. But I honestly think that the fish never went extinct and that they have been alive all the time. I say that no matter what anyone else says, a species is never totally extinct. There is no way anyone can say that a fish is extinct because the underwater environment is so secretive that you could be staring at a so-called 'extinct' fish and not even know it. Even the 'Experts' aren't always right. Take a look at the (Latimeria chalumnae) or known as the Coelacanth, Scientists thought that it had been extinct 50 million years ago and just at the middle of the 20th century we discovered that they had been hiding in the volcanic structures around the south African shores. So never say a species is extinct.”

Thing  that you won’t read anywhere else is on this website. Make sure you read the minutes of the “BLUE PIKE WORKSHOP” held July 17th 1997 by the USFS. It was held in Amherst NY. There is a list of attendees so you know who was present. Besides USFWS head, at the time, Dieter Busch, there was Carol Stepien, then of the Dept. of Biology, Case Western Res. University, who now heads the Great Lakes Environmental Genetics Laboratory at the Cleveland State University. Ms. Stepien is quoted in Joe Ognibene’s article above.


A NEW SCIENTIFIC NAME   FOR WALLEYE

The world’s fish experts have suddenly agreed just recently to scrap the scientific name “Stizostedion vitreum” as the textbook definition for walleye. The new scientific name is now “Sander vitreus” for walleye. Sander is pronounced “Zander”.

 For many, many years, “Sander” has been the scientific name on the other side of the Atlantic in Europe. [Since around1818].

 The North American scientists agreed to the name change because Sander vitreum pre-dates Stizostedion vitreum. Now we are the same all around the world.

 Gee, do you think they will taste the same?

 Go Back To BLUE PIKE INDEX Page

 Tell us what you think!