PORTLAND, Ore. — It was a good year for those fishing for northern pikeminnow in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
More than 3,000 people registered for the 2018 Northern Pike Minnow Sport Reward Program. Combined, they spent more than 23,000 angler-days catching and removing 180,271 of the salmon-eating fish — protecting young salmon and steelhead from predators.
The reward program, funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, has run annually from May 1 through Sept. 30 for more than 20 years. It’s administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. For more information, call 800-858-9015 or go to pikeminnow.org.
Anglers caught about 11.5 percent of northern pikeminnow more than nine inches long, helping the BPA successfully meet its annual goal of removing 10 to 20 percent of the predators.
In total, anglers earned about $1.4 million for their efforts. The reward program pays registered anglers $5 to $8 per fish nine inches or longer. The more fish an angler catches during the season, the more their pikeminnow are worth. State fish and wildlife biologists also released more than 1,000 specially tagged northern pike minnow, each worth $500.
This year, the top 20 fishermen who participated in the program earned an average of nearly $29,000 each. The top angler earned more than $71,000, reeling in more than 8,600 fish over the five-month season.
Northern pikeminnow are voracious eaters, consuming millions of young salmon and steelhead every year. Since 1990, anglers paid through the reward program have removed nearly 5 million of the fish from the Columbia and Snake rivers. Biologists estimate that the program has reduced predation on young salmon and steelhead by up to 40 percent from pre-program levels.