Pikeminnow Reward Program
by Allen Thomas, Columbian staff writer
Anglers in the northern pikeminnow bounty program caught a record number of fish in the Columbia and Snake rivers this year, the 13th season.
The program ended for 2004 on Sept. 26 was a catch of 267,213 pikeminnow. The second-best year was 244,032 in 1996.
Financed by the Bonneville Power Administration, the program pays a reward for each northern pikeminnow in excess of 9 inches.
Pikeminnows are an effective predator of young salmon and steelhead migrating down the Snake and Columbia rivers to the ocean. It is estimated this year's pikeminnow catch saved between 2.5 million and 3.5 million juvenile salmon.
Anglers get paid $5 per fish for the first 100. The next 300 are worth $6 and after 400 the bounty jumps to $8. Pikeminnows with special tags are worth $500 each.
Top anglers have made as much as $35,000 fish for pikeminnows, formerly called squawfish.
The BPA increase the reward amounts this year to compensate for its plan to reduce the amount of water spilled for downstream-migrating juvenile salmon during the summer.
Although the summer spill reduction was stopped by court action, the enhanced pikeminnow program continued at the higher dollar level.
"Preliminary estimates show that the increase in the reward had the kind of impact we were hoping for in terms of an increased harvest rate and benefits associated with it,'' said John Skidmore, BPA pikeminnow program manager.
A study sponsored by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and conducted by a trio of economists has reviewed the pikeminnow program and given it high marks for cost effectiveness.
The program costs about $2.8 million a year.
Bonneville pays for the reward program because the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers has changed the habitat to the benefit of pikeminnows and detriment of salmon and steelhead.
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