By Rick Roach
Northern Pikeminnow are voracious predators and consume millions of salmon smolts each year (smolts are juvenile salmon returning to the ocean). Salmon are an important economic driver in the Pacific Northwest due to their intrinsic value as a food source as well as a sport fish. Salmon are also very important to Native American tribes in the region and are a big part of their culture. According to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission “Salmon play an integral part of tribal religion, culture, and physical sustenance.”
The Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission all work together to reduce the number of Northern Pikeminnow in the Columbia and Snake Rivers and they need your help. The program’s goal is to reduce the population of the predatory Northern Pikeminnow in order to increase salmon populations in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Program, as part of the NPMP, has been successfully managing the pikeminnow population for the last 28 years by paying anglers cash rewards for pikeminnow. Anglers are paid from five to eight dollars per fish and 500 dollars for each tagged fish! Top anglers have been paid in excess of $100,000 in previous years with the 2018 top angler earning over $71,000. The sport-reward program runs from May 1 to September 30 so you still have time to get in on the action.
In addition to the Sport-Reward program in 2010 the Dam Angling component of the NPMP was implemented and utilizes a four-person crew of experienced anglers using recreational-type hook and line angling techniques to harvest Northern Pikeminnow from within the boat restricted zones (BRZ’s) below The Dalles and John Day dams on the Columbia River. The dam angling program is conducted in areas inaccessible to the public which are restricted to authorized personnel by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for safety and security reasons.
“Getting paid to fish sounds like a lot of fun”, said Steve Williams, Field Programs Administrator at the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, “but it is really hard work.”
The crews rotate between The Dalles and John Day dams and fish four ten hour days per week starting their fishing day in the morning as early as 4:30 am or during the evening fishing as late as 1 am. In addition to catching fish each angler must document and collect data for the program.
For more information about getting paid to fish visit www.pikeminnow.org. The website is easy to navigate and full of information about the sport-reward program including catch records for each area of the Columbia river and educational information on how to catch pikeminnow.