Ptychocheilus Oregonensis



Lakes, Slow Rivers, Backwaters of Streams and Rivers

2 - 8 pounds

1" - 25"

Northern Pikeminnow

Also Known As: Northern Pikeminnow, Northern Squawfish, Columbia River Dace  

Northern Pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus Oregonensis) Fish Description

Northern Pikeminnows are slender in appearance with silver bodies. They have gold-green backs with a single dorsal fin. Appearance-wise, some people have mistaken the Northern Pikeminnow for the Plymouth. In Asian countries, it’s possible that the Northern Pikeminnow might even be passed off as a Milkfish due to their similarities.

However, there are some clear-cut differences. The first difference is the barbels. Northern Pikeminnows have dark bars near their chins that serve as their barbels. Peamouths don’t have barbels and neither do Milkfish. Another is the way their mouths are designed. A Northern Pikeminnow’s mouth usually extends all the way to their eye. The edge of their mouth is parallel to the middle of their eye whereas a Peamouth’s mouth barely reaches its eye and that their lips are somewhat red. Milkfish is also differentiated from Northern Pinkminnows for their dark-colored backs (usually a navy-blue color).


Northern Pikeminnow Diet and Size

Northern Pikeminnows prey on Salmons and Steelheads. They are considered voracious predators if their numbers are not continuously culled. They are adept predators which are why Northern Pikeminnows can quickly dominate over Salmons and Steelheads with little difficulty.

However, Northern Pikeminnows also consume insects (some terrestrial and aquatic ones) and some plants.

Northern Pikeminnows can grow up to 2.1ft (25 inches) and can weigh as heavy as 7.5 lbs.


Interesting Facts about the Northern Pikeminnow 

  • Northern Pikeminnows are considered an invasive species.
    • They are considered invasive due to their voracious appetite when it comes to Salmon.
    • Anglers are encouraged to catch Northern Pikeminnows to exchange them for money as a means to preserve the Salmon population.
    • There’s even have a sports program that tells rewards you for fishing out Northern Pikeminnows.
  • Northern Pikeminnows have a bounty on their species.
  • These fish are considered the biggest among the North American Minnows.
  • Northern Pikeminnows are fast swimmers. They can swim up to 10 miles/hour.
  • These fishes are camouflage experts.
  • Other Northern Pikeminnows are known to prey on smaller Northern Pikeminnows.
  • Their original name as the Northern Squawfish was seen as offensive as it served as a reminder of the brutalization of Native American women by the early settlers.


Northern Pikeminnow – Fishing Techniques: How to Fish for a Northern Pikeminnow

When it comes to bait, the most common one to use for a Northern Pikeminnow is worms. Use it as part of a drift fishing equipment. When placing the worm as the drift fishing bait, anglers would also use a weight that’s at least one-eighth of an ounce. That way, the bait doesn’t just float off. Some other baits include chicken liver, salmon eggs, fried chicken skin, and fish guts. Others reported that using crayfish tails and shrimps work too in catching these voracious eaters.

Other techniques in catching the Northern Pikeminnow include plunking. Plunking is a technique where the bait is weighted down by another weight to prevent it from drifting away with the current. However, it’s weighted in a way where the bait will appear as if it’s “walking” towards the Northern Pikeminnow. 

Another is called Back Bouncing. Back Bouncing is when you let the bait sink to the bottom then bounce it up again via lifting your rod at least 1-2 feet above. Let the current then drag your reel for a bit until it settles in the bottom again. This takes advantage of the Northern Pikeminnow’s aggressive tendencies.


Northern Pikeminnow Habitat and Distribution

Commonly, the Northern Pikeminnows are found where salmons are. However, their populace seems to have concentrated in the Nass River Basin and the Columbia River Basin. Some of them have been located in Montana.

They have a preference for lakes or bodies of water with slow currents. Young ones usually stay by lakeshores or by backwaters of rivers. Every May to early July, they usually congregate in lakes that have a lot of gravel for them to spawn in.