Northern Pikeminnow Fishing
by Mark Yuasa
Last year, rewards totaled more than $1-million for just under 160,000 fish.
The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery Program in the Columbia River is off to a good start, and more anglers seem to be participating this season.
"We've been getting more new anglers out this season, and we're always trying to recruit people," said Russell Porter, senior program manager, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The reward program just might be a way to sweeten a sour economy or to help someone without a job, and do their part at catching these highly predatory fish.
After all the northern pikeminnow, a large member of the minnow family is known to eat millions of young salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers each year.
The more northern pikeminnow an angler catches, the more the fish are worth. The first 100 are worth $4 each; the next 300 are worth $5 each, and after 400 fish are caught and turned in, they are worth $8 each. As an added incentive, specially tagged fish are worth $500. Only fish caught from the Columbia mouth to Priest Rapids Dam, and form the Snake mouth to Hells Canyon Dam are eligible.
Last year, excluding tagged fish, rewards totaled more than $1-million for 158,674 fish. A total of 167 tagged fish paid out $83,500.
Last year, Nikolay N. Zaremskiy of Gresham, Ore., was paid $57,772 for catching 7,015 fish, and David R. Vasilchuk of Vancouver took second with $44,608 and 5,185 fish. The top-20 catches were paid a grand total of $430,415.
Last year, anglers caught about 159,806 fish with 26,141 angler days spent on the water. The daily catch-per-angler average last season was 6.11 fish.
"Things have been going pretty good this year, but our catches are a bit down and that might be because the water is a little bit cold right now," Porter said. "By [later this month] we usually start to hear of a better bite."
Porter says through June 6-7, anglers have turned in about 26,000 fish, and "we consider it a good year when 180,000 to 200,000 fish are caught."
Since 1990, more than three million northern pikeminnow have been removed through the sport reward program. As a result of these efforts, predation on juvenile salmonids is estimated to have been cut by 38 percent.
Some of better catches occur from the The Dalles Boat Basin check station; Boyer Park in the Snake River below Lower Granite Dam; and the M. James Gleason ramp in the Lower Columbia River Washougal.
"It's not easy to catch them," Porter said. "We'd like to educate people so they have some knowledge before heading out."
The help anglers there will be a pikeminnow clinic 6 p.m. June 19 at the Sportsman Warehouse on Canal Drive in Kennewick.
The fish caught aren't just thrown away in the trash; they are used to make liquid organic fertilizer for agriculture and fish meal for poultry and dairy cattle feed.
There are 17 check stations along both rivers. Anglers must register in person each day before fishing.
Catches must be checked in at the station each day, and reward vouchers will be given. Details: 800-858-9015 or www.pikeminnow.org.
The program is administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, which is directed by the 1980 Northwest Power Act to fund work to improve salmon runs harmed by federal hydroelectric dams.
Survival of Snake River Salmon & Steelhead compiled by bluefish, July 2004
Mortality by Predacious Fish
Survival past predacious fish is estimated to be about 92.7% - 94%. The higher survival rate is attributed to a sport reward fishery of Northern Pikeminnow costing Bonneville Power Administration ratepayers (primarily Washington electricity users) $1 million annually.
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