It was a good year for pikeminnow anglers in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
More than 3,000 people registered for the 2018 Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program.
Combined, they spent more than 23,000 angler-days catching and removing 180,271 of the salmon-eating fish, which helps protect young salmon and steelhead from predation.
Northern pikeminnow are voracious eaters, consuming millions of young salmon and steelhead every year. Since 1990, anglers paid through the program, which is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, have removed nearly five million pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers.
All together, anglers were paid about $1.4 million for their efforts in 2018. The harvest was down a
bit from 2017 due to higher river flows, but individual angler success improved slightly. Average catch per angler per day was 7.52, up from 7.38 in 2017.
The reward program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and runs annually, May 1 through Sept. 30.
Based on this year’s catches, the BPA is meeting its annual program goal, which requires removal of 10 to 20 percent of the predators. Northern pikeminnow anglers caught and removed about 11.5 percent of fish more than nine inches long. These larger fish are the portion of the northern pikeminnow population believed to eat the most salmon and steelhead smolts.
“The goal of this program is to reduce the number of northern pikeminnow in the Columbia and Snake rivers,” said Eric McOmie, BPA program manager. “We’ve seen a substantial reduction in predation by these fish, which means young salmon and steelhead have a better chance of making it to the ocean and eventually returning to the basin as adults.”
The reward program pays registered anglers between $5 and $8 for every fish caught that is nine inches or longer. The more fish an angler catches during the season, the more their pikeminnow are worth. In 2018, state fish and wildlife biologists also released more than 1,000 specially tagged northern pikeminnow, each worth $500.
The top 20 fishermen to participate in this year’s program earned an average of nearly $29,000 each. The top individual angler earned more than $71,000, reeling in over 8,600 fish during the five-month season.
The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program is administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. For more information about the program, call 800-858-9015 or visit www.pikeminnow.org.