An Oregon fisherman reeled more than $100,000 in bounties for catching and removing a staggering 10,755 Northern Pikeminnows from the state’s rivers.
The Northern Pikeminnow is a native fish that preys “heavily” on juvenile salmon and steelhead, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Following the development and operation of the Columbia River Hydropower System, the invasive fish thrived.
“The dams of the Columbia and Snake Rivers slow the travel time of out migrating salmon, increase the water temperature and subsequently the metabolic rate of predatory fish, and disrupt the orientation of out migrating smolts, all which contribute to increases in predation and loss in survival for salmon and steelhead,” the ODFW explains. “Research has shown that Northern Pikeminnow are one of the primary predators contributing to salmon loss and that larger sized Northern Pikeminnow in particular consume high numbers of salmon and steelhead, eating millions each year.”
In response, the ODFW created the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program (NPSP), funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
From May 1 to September 30, anglers are paid between $6 and $10 for each of the fish they catch in the lower Columbia River and the Snake River, so long as it is nine inches or larger. Specially tagged fish bring in $500.
“The goal of the program is not to eliminate northern pikeminnow, but rather to reduce the average size and curtail the number of larger, older fish,” the ODFW stresses. “Reducing the number of these predators can greatly help the salmon and steelhead juveniles making it out to sea.”
This year, the top fisherman and Oregon resident earned a whopping $107,800 in bounties, Fox News Digital reports. Coming in second was an angler who pulled in 9,786 of the pesky pikeminnows and received $99,110 for the effort.
According to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC), “Since 1991 through 2011, over 3.9 million northern pikeminnow have been removed by the Sport Reward Fishery activities in the program area.”
The PSMFC “works in collaboration with the fishery agencies of the states of Washington and Oregon,” according to its website.
“Washington runs the sport-reward registration and creel check stations throughout the river, and handles all fish checked in to the program,” it explains. “Oregon provides fish tagging services, population studies, and food habit studies, as well as exploitation rate estimates. PSMFC processes all reward vouchers for the sport-reward anglers.”
The NPSP website breaks down the bounty system.
The first 25 in one season are worth $6 each; after 25, the bounty jumps to $8 each; and every qualifying fish over the 200 mark is worth $10 apiece.
“A total of 156,505 pikeminnows were creeled by 11,954 anglers,” Fox News Digital reports.
Program manager Eric Winther called it “a really solid year.”
“All in all, a really solid year punctuated by some exceptionally good fishing during several windows of opportunity in multiple areas,” he told Northwest Sportsman Magazine.
“Harvest was very close to the 32-year average of 160,000 and effort increased by more than 10 percent,” he said.
According to the magazine, “The removal of 156,505 pikeminnows was a five-year high and marked a second straight increase after 2021’s worst-ever haul of 89,542.”
“The most ever paid out to an angler was $119,341 in 2016 for a record 14,019 pikeminnows,” it reports, “including 12 tagged fish.”
Winther is already looking ahead to the 2024 season.
This year, he said, “We successfully deployed our Pikeminnow phone app for easier angler registering and despite some usual start-up glitches, we plan for the app to be even more angler-friendly in 2024.”
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