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BPA Extends Northern Pikeminnow Fishing Season

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin - September 22, 2000

The Bonneville Power Administration is extending the date it will pay a bounty on northern pikeminnow caught in certain areas of the Columbia and Snake rivers through Oct. 15.

Although the season was scheduled to end Sept. 24, the agency said the program's success and a harvest rate that has already surpassed last year's harvest by more than 50,000 fish has encouraged BPA to extend the season.

"We like to hold open the option to extend the season every year based on how the catch is shaping up," said John Skidmore, fish and wildlife manager for BPA. He said the decision is largely economic and is based on catch per unit of effort. "We are leaving open registration stations that continue to have fairly high participation, while we've closed some stations and narrowed the hours of others."

The Squawfish Management Program was implemented in 1990 to reduce predation by northern pikeminnows (once locally referred to as squawfish) on juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating through Columbia and Snake river dams. The pikeminnow is a native species to the region. BPA said the program is a way to balance the number of salmon and the number of pikeminnow.

The program costs Northwest ratepayers about $3 million per year, but it is reaping large rewards in terms of pikeminnow caught and in reductions in predation.

So far this year, anglers, who received a bounty for each northern pikeminnow caught, have caught 161,000 of the fish this year since May 15 when the season opened. That total is nearing the seasonal record of 197,000 fish caught in 1995. According to Skidmore, one reason for the high catch this year is that the size limit for catches dropped from 11 inches to 9 inches, increasing the number of pikeminnow eligible for the program.

Since the program's inception, sport anglers have removed more than 1.3 million of the predators from the river, which, according to BPA, has resulted in a drop in predation on salmon by the northern pikeminnow by about 25 percent.

Basic research for the program was done between 1982 and 1986 in the John Day Dam pool, where northern pikeminnow predation of juvenile salmon and steelhead was estimated at about 11 million every year. Skidmore said predation varies by pool -- the John Day pool is downstream from the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers, so there are a lot of juvenile salmon -- but that total predation on the river still runs in the millions.

The program offers a bounty to anglers who turn fish in registration stations. That bounty increases the more the angler catches. BPA pays $4 per fish for the first 100 fish turned in during the season, $5 for each fish between 101 and 400, and $6 for all fish over a count of 400.

The sport-reward program, which accounts for most of the annual catch, is implemented by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Two supplemental programs -- the dam angling and site specific programs -- are implemented by Columbia Basin tribes.

Link information:
Pikeminnow web site by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

BPA Extends Northern Pikeminnow Fishing Season
Columbia Basin Bulletin, September 22, 2000

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