The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program paid out in 2019 nearly $1,162,000 in rewards and removed 146,225 fish. The top angler earned $53,107.
Funded by the Bonneville Power Administration for nearly 30 years, the program runs May 1 to Sept. 30 and pays registered anglers $5 to $8 per fish, nine inches or longer. Specially tagged northern pikeminnow are each worth $500.
Each year millions of juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers make their way downstream toward the Pacific Ocean. These young fish face numerous predators along the way, including a native fish responsible for depleting the numbers of out-migrating juveniles.
“Large northern pikeminnow are responsible for eating the most salmon and steelhead smolts,” said Eric McOmie, BPA program manager. “Reducing the number of large pikeminnow can help more young salmon make their way to the ocean, which means more of them will return to their home streams as adults.”
“We had more than 2,700 registered anglers this year,” said Steve Williams, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission senior program manager. “They caught and turned in an average of seven fish a day and removed a total of 146,225 fish during the five-month season.”
The program’s goal is not to eliminate northern pikeminnow, but rather to reduce the average size and number of larger, predatory fish.
The 2019 northern pikeminnow sport reward season wrapped up Sept. 30, and based on some of the numbers below BPA continues to meet its annual goal to remove 10-20% of the predators:
•Fish removed, 146,225
•Registered anglers, 2,700
•Average angler catch, 7.2 fish/day
•Total paid to anglers, $1,161,421
◦Total earnings, $53,107
◦Fish removed, 6,482
The program’s effectiveness may even go beyond saving juvenile salmon and steelhead.
“Lamprey are often found in the diets of the northern pikeminnow,” said Mac Barr, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Predation Studies project leader. “In 2019, we began exploring ways to better estimate how many juvenile lamprey in the Columbia and Snake rivers are eaten by the northern pikeminnow. Understanding the predation rates on lamprey is important because they are a state sensitive species as well as a federal species of concern and are culturally important to many Columbia Basin tribes.”
The Sport Reward Program has removed more than 5 million northern pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers since 1990, reducing predation on young salmon and steelhead by up to 40%. BPA funds the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program as part of its mitigation for the construction and operation of the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The program is managed by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The PSMFC works with the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife departments to offer information and seminars at events throughout the year. Learn more about the program at http://www.pikeminnow.org