Reel in Cash for Catching Pikeminnows
by Rich Landers, The Spokesman Review
The 2008 Pikeminnow Sport Reward Season started Monday and will run through Sept. 28 on the Columbia from the mouth to the Tri-Cities and on the Snake from the mouth to Lewiston.
Anglers who register can earn from $4 up to $8 a fish for northern pikeminnows longer than 9 inches that are caught and turned in to reward stations.
Serious anglers have made the pikeminnow a cash crop.
Edward Williams of Spokane was the fourth-highest earner in the 2007 reward program, landing 3,566 fish and collecting $27,728.
In 2006, David Vasilchuk of Vancouver earned a record $48,348 during the five-month program season. Vasilchuk was the high earner again in 2007, catching 5,591 fish for $47,364 in rewards.
Nikolay Zaremskiy of Portland caught the most pikeminnows in 2007, turning in 5,778 fish and collecting $46,400.
The payment system rewards anglers who catch more fish by increasing the bounty from $4 for the first 100 pikeminnows ranging up to $8 for every fish over 400. Anglers who catch tagged pikeminnows can earn bonuses of $500.
Vasilchuk caught eight tagged fish to Zaremskiy's three. Williams caught one tagged fish.
The Bonneville Power Administration funds the reward program to reduce the number of the native predators, which have been given an unnatural advantage for eating endangered salmon and steelhead smolts as they try to migrate downstream through the reservoirs created by dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers.
In 2007, the program paid a total of $1.28 million to 1,177 anglers who turned in a total of 192,518 northern pikeminnows.
In 2006, the program paid a total of $1.57 million to 1,470 anglers who turned in a total of 232,883 pikeminnows. The record catch was 240,955 pikeminnows in 2005.
Boyer Park on the Snake River was the tops among the 17 check stations for collecting pikeminnows from anglers last year, producing more than 32,000 fish.
Participating anglers average about seven pikeminnows a day. But the averages don't tell the whole story, said Eric Winther, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife project leader for the Columbia-Snake predator control program.
While 1,177 anglers received a pay vouchers in 2007, the program registered 3,814 different anglers who spent 26,924 angler days fishing for pikeminnows.
"With salmon or steelhead fishing, you often hear that 10 percent of the anglers get 80 percent of the fish," he said. "In the case of pikeminnows, we have the hard numbers to show that 8 percent get 75 percent of the fish."
To learn more about the Pikeminnow Program, call (800) 858-9015 or visit www.pikeminnow.org
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