The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward program pays anglers in the Pacific Northwest handsomely. During the 2023 season, one angler made $107,800 in bounties from the program by catching and registering 10,755 pikeminnows from the Columbia and Snake River drainages.
The program is conducted each year in Washington State and Oregon to control populations of these native fish that are detrimental to salmon and steelhead fisheries.
“Northern pikeminnow are a native species that eats millions of juvenile salmon and steelhead each year in the Columbia and Snake River systems,” according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The goal of the Pikeminnow Program is not to eradicate northern pikeminnow, but rather to reduce their average size by removing 10 to 20 percent of the larger fish from their population. Reducing the number of larger northern pikeminnow and thus shrinking the average-sized fish in the population can greatly help juvenile salmon and steelhead make it to sea, since smaller sized northern pikeminnow eat fewer smolts than larger fish.”
To achieve this, anglers are rewarded with cash for catching pikeminnows and registering them at check stations. The 2023 season ran from May 1 through Sept. 30 with a tiered system for payouts. One to 25 fish paid $6 per pikeminnow. Twenty-six to 200 fish paid $8 per pikeminnow. More than 200 fish paid $10 per pikeminnow, and specially tagged fish paid out $500 each.
With some know-how and a lot of time spent on the water, anglers can really haul in some cash. The second-place angler in 2023 earned $99,110 for registering 9,786 fish. Third place rewarded $62,530 for 6,237 pikeminnows. Down at No. 20, 1,803 fish earned an angler $17,790. Those are pretty good pay days to go fishing for what some think of as trash fish.
The program has been held annually for more than a decade. It is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration to partially mitigate the impact of hydroelectric dams.
For more information, go to https://www.pikeminnow.org/.