A fair warning to anglers with full-time office jobs: this next sentence might cause you to reconsider your current career path. An angler in the Pacific Northwest made $61,000 last year catching northern pike from the Columbia and Snake rivers and turning them into wildlife stewards in Oregon and Washington.
The unnamed fisherman caught and removed 7,185 of the unwanted fish from the two rivers over a five-month period last year, according to the Tri-City Herald. And while he was the top earner in 2021, he certainly wasn’t the only angler who was able to subsidize his fishing habit by participating in the Northern Pikeminnow sports reward program.
The Sport-Reward Program is a multi-agency collaborative effort that aims to boost native salmonid populations in the Columbia River Basin by awarding a bounty to northern pike, which is a major predator of salmon and rainbow trout. juvenile skies. The program, which is administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and implemented by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, pays anglers for every pike they catch over 9 inches. long. The motto of the program is “Save a salmon (and make money doing it)”.
Anglers in Columbia and Snake River can participate in the program between May 1 and September 30 each year, and reward payouts operate on a sliding scale. In 2021, anglers received $5 per fish for the first 25 fish they caught. This reward increased to $6 each after 25 fish, then to $8 each after 200 fish. Pikeminnow tagged was worth a bonus amount of $500 each. Last year alone, the BPA paid out a total of approximately $700,000 in exchange for the approximately 89,600 pike caught by participating anglers.
According to Eric Winther, project manager for WDFW’s Sport-Reward program, that number represents about 11.3 percent of the overall Columbia Basin pikeminnow population, consistent with the agency’s goal of eliminating 10 to 20% of the population on an annual basis. Now in his 32’sn/a year, the bounty program has led to the elimination of more than 5 million of these predators from the Columbia and Snake rivers. Fisheries biologists estimate that this reduction has reduced their predation on juvenile salmon and rainbow trout by up to 40%.
The Bonneville Power Administration is funding the program to partially alleviate the significant impact of the Columbia River hydroelectric system on endangered salmon and rainbow trout. The BPA operates 29 hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin and is the largest electricity supplier in the Pacific Northwest. But that electricity costs more than anyone’s monthly bill.
BPA dams on the Columbia and Lower Snake Rivers have flooded important spawning areas and blocked entire segments of the watershed for anadromous fish. The series of reservoirs created by these dams have also altered historical river flows and continue to raise water temperatures to dangerous levels. But since the federal agency cannot undo the damage inflicted on salmon and rainbow trout by this vast network of dams without disrupting the Northwest’s power grid (and going bankrupt in the process), BPA uses part of its annual revenue to fund the continued removal of northern pike.
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Pikeminnow is native to the Columbia River Basin, and as the waterway has been transformed from a mighty flowing river into a series of federally controlled reservoirs, the species has benefited, to the detriment of native salmonids. Northern pike now consume millions of migrating juvenile salmon and rainbow trout each year as they patrol the mouths of tributaries of the Columbia River. Their pernicious effects on increasingly fragile salmon runs led fisheries biologists to implement the Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Program in 1990.
The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program will continue this summer, and the BPA has already announced that it will increase the Pikeminnow bounty to involve more anglers. Starting May 1, the program will pay $6 each for the first 25 pike; $8 each for the next 175 fish; then $10 each after 200. Randomly tagged Pikeminnow will still be worth $500 each, and the season will run until September 30.