June is a peak time to get involved in a unique program that marries recreational fishing, salmon and steelhead conservation, and cash rewards for anglers.
The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program has paid anglers to catch northern pikeminnow in order to help conserve salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River basin since 1991.
June is historically the time of the highest angler harvest of this predator of juvenile salmon and steelhead. Fishing opportunity and success is likely to keep improving as the month goes on, so you too can help save salmon by going fishing and getting paid to do it.
Get paid to fish
Imagine feeling the tug of a fish dancing on your line, but when you reel it in, you’re actually landing money toward that new piece of equipment you’ve been eyeing, a gift for someone special, or simply taking care of expenses.
Anglers are paid for each northern pikeminnow they catch in the program boundaries that is 9 inches or larger in total length. What’s more is that the reward increases as you catch more fish. Rewards start at $5 each for the first 25 northern pikeminnow caught during the season. Anglers are then paid $6 for each fish they catch from 26-200, and $8 for every fish caught over 200 cumulatively. Anglers are also paid $500 for each specially tagged northern pikeminnow.
The program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, and implemented by WDFW.
When and where
The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program started May 1 this year on the Columbia and Snake rivers and runs through Sept. 30.
The program takes place only on the mainstem Columbia River from the mouth to Priest Rapids Dam upstream of Washington’s Tri-Cities and on the Snake River from the mouth to Hells Canyon Dam. The “mainstem” includes backwaters, sloughs, and up tributaries 400 feet from tributary mouths.
A northern pikeminnow need only be 9 inches or more in length to qualify an angler for a payment in the sport-reward fishery on the Columbia and Snake rivers. (Isaac Lane Koval)
Why northern pikeminnow?
Northern pikeminnow are a native species that eats millions of juvenile salmon and steelhead each year in the Columbia and Snake river systems. The goal of the reward program is not to eradicate the fish, but rather to reduce their average size by removing 10 to 20 percent of the larger fish from the population. Reducing the number of larger northern pikeminnow and shrinking the average-sized fish in the population can greatly help juvenile salmon and steelhead make it to sea because smaller-sized northern pikeminnow eat fewer smolts than their larger counterparts.
Northern pikeminnow are a native species that eats millions of juvenile salmon and steelhead each year in the Columbia and Snake river systems. (Jim Souders)
Top anglers, program results
From 2011 through 2020, the top 20 anglers in the program caught an average of 3,353 fish per angler and averaged reward payments of $27,836 each for the five-month season. The highest-paid angler in 2020 caught 5,579 fish and earned $48,501, while the all-time record harvest is 14,109 northern pikeminnow worth $119,341!
BPA funds the Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery to partially mitigate the impact that the Federal Columbia River Hydroelectric System has on salmon and steelhead.
Results indicate that the program has been successful, with over 5.2 million predatory northern pikeminnow removed to date by participating anglers, and a decrease of predation on juvenile salmonids of up to 40 percent from pre-program levels.
Stay in the know
For all the details on the program and how to get involved, check out these resources:
An angler holds two northern pikeminnow caught as part of the sport-reward fishery on the Columbia River. (Isaac Lane Koval)
To participate, you only need a valid fishing license and to adhere to all applicable state fishing regulations for the area in which you fish.
If you haven’t already, you can buy your fishing license today by visiting fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, calling 360-902-2464, or going to a license dealer near you. Go to wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/dealers to find your nearest license dealer.
We wish you a productive 2021 season full of tight lines and rewards!
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