VANCOUVER- A program that pays recreational anglers to harvest northern pikeminnow from portions of the Columbia River system begins May 2.
Now in its 15th season, the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and implemented by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Aimed at reducing pikeminnow predation on juvenile salmon, the reward fishery is part of BPA's salmon-enhancement work under the 1980 Pacific Northwest Power Act.
The program pays recreational anglers to harvest northern pikeminnow nine inches or larger from the lower Columbia River between the mouth and Priest Rapids Dam, and on the Snake River from the mouth to Hells Canyon Dam.
Anglers interested in participating in this year's fishery can sign up beginning May 2 at any registration station below the John Day Dam in Klickitat County. Registration stations located above the John Day Dam will be set up May 16.
A complete list of registration locations is available on the northern pikeminnow sport reward program website, at http://www.pikeminnow.org/.
The program will offer anglers who harvest and turn in the predatory fish $4 each for the first 100 northern pikeminnow; $5 each for 101 to 400 pikeminnow; and $8 each for pikeminnow in excess of 400 fish, said Eric Winther, WDFW northern pikeminnow project leader. Fish marked with "spaghetti" monitoring tags behind the dorsal fin will continue to be worth $500 each.
The top angler last year caught 4,264 pikeminnow and earned more than $34,000, Winther said, and pikeminnow-fishing conditions should be excellent this year.
"River levels in the Columbia River are expected to be below average this season and while that may not be good news for salmon, it is typically results in better catch rates for pikeminnow anglers," he said, noting that the traditional peak harvest period for the fish is late June but could be earlier this year because of lower water levels.
Anglers participating in the 2004 fishery harvested a record 267,000 northern pikeminnow. Since 1990, the fishery has removed more than 2.3 million northern pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers, resulting in an estimated 25 percent reduction in pikeminnow predation on juvenile salmon.
More information on the Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery Program is available by calling the pikeminnow hotline at (800) 858-9015, or visiting the program's web site at http://www.pikeminnow.org/ on the Internet. The website offers a map of the program area, locations and hours of operation for registrations stations, and complete rules for participation.