Featured image from Flylords’ own Patrick Perry
Northern pikeminnows in the Columbia River have a bounty on their heads and a target on their backs. The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery was set up to mitigate the drastic impact pikeminnows have on the eggs and smolts of the migratory steelhead and salmon that call the river system home during their spawn. You can learn more about the program at PikeMinnow.org.
From the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Fish, and Wildlife & Washington Fish and Wildlife:
PORTLAND, Ore. – Registered anglers fishing near the Tri-Cities, Washington, can fish and turn in northern pikeminnow beginning April 19 as part of an early opening trial of the 2021 Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery.
The early season opener is only available to anglers registered at the Columbia Point registration station near Richland, Washington, fishing within program boundaries above McNary Dam. The regular northern pikeminnow sport reward program begins May 1.
As in previous years, the program pays registered anglers $5 to $8 for each pikeminnow that is at least nine inches long. The more fish an angler catches, the more each pikeminnow is worth. And some fish have an even bigger payout. State fish and wildlife biologists have released specially tagged northern pikeminnow into the Columbia and Snake rivers, each worth $500.
Northern pikeminnow are voracious eaters, consuming millions of young salmon and steelhead each year. Since 1990, anglers paid through the program have removed nearly 5 million pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers. The program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in cooperation with the Washington and Oregon departments of fish and wildlife. It has reduced predation from pikeminnow on young salmon and steelhead by approximately 40% since it began.
If the early opener proves productive, additional stations may be considered for early opening in 2022, said Eric Winther, project lead with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Historically, large numbers of northern pikeminnow congregate near the mouth of the Yakima River early in the year,” said Winther. “We believe this early opener may provide anglers with some great harvests before those fish disperse from the area later in the season.”
Winther noted there have been several changes to station locations and operating hours for the 2021 season.
In addition to the 18 full-time stations that operate during the five-month season, six new satellite stations will offer anglers additional pikeminnow harvest opportunities in areas with good fishing during short windows of time. These satellite stations will open at different times throughout the season. Interested anglers are encouraged to get the most up-to-date information on the program website, www.pikeminnow.org, before heading out.
Details on how to register for the program and applicable state fishing regulations are also available on the program website. Anglers will find resources on the site to help boost their fishing game, including maps, how-to videos, and free fishing clinics.
For more information about the 2021 Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery visit www.pikeminnow.org, or call 800-858-9015.