New invasive Pickerel caught off Wolfe Island in Kingston

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New invasive Pickerel caught off Wolfe Island in Kingston
A Kingston sports fisherman pulled in something very different, rarely seen in Ontario waters -- a Chain Pickerel – May 30, 2020

With the fishing session just two weeks in across Ontario, anglers have been casting their lines in hopes of catching the “big one”.

One Kingston, Ont., sports fisherman pulled in something very different — rarely seen in Ontario waters.

“We immediately noticed there was something different about it,” says Cody Wheeler.

Wheeler has been fishing since he was four-years-old, he said, adding his love for the sport was handed down by his grandfather.

A week ago, his first catch of the day, off Wolfe Island, was a new species in Ontario waters — a Chain Pickerel.

Cody Wheeler holds a Chain Pickerel he caught a week ago. Cody Wheeler/Global News

“Apparently they are pretty new in the area,” says Wheeler, “only appearing around 2008 … as I have been told by some Ministry of Natural Resources employees.”

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“It’s been in New York State for a number of years, for a long time,” says Colin Lake, a biologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), “but we hadn’t seen it on the north side of Lake Ontario.”

Since the first sighting in 2008, there have been a dozen catches in Ontario waters reported to the MNR.

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“Most people would recognize them as looking very similar to a Northern Pike,” says Lake, “but they have got (this) really distinctive chain-like pattern on its side that gives it its name.”

Chain Pickerel. MNR/Global News

The Ministry of Natural Resources has been collecting local data on the invasive species for years, asking that anglers report when they catch one.

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In fact, Parks Canada in Nova Scotia has described the species as a predator, eating everything from other fish species to frogs.

The breed, according to Parks Canada, has the potential to take over other native fish habitats.

But that doesn’t seem to be a concern yet here in the Kingston region.

“In the almost 10 years since we found this fish, … has it really increased in numbers?” said Lake, “between the commercial fishers being out all the time, anglers being out.

“Our own crews being out, doing lots of netting, we haven’t seen evidence that they have exploded in numbers.”

“That’s a fish (Chain Pickerel) of 10,000 casts,” says Wheeler, “they are pretty rare in the area and I’m a sports fisherman. … I’m always excited to catch a new species.”

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