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Ecology and salmon related articles

Good Money Out There for Dead Pikeminnows

by Staff Reports
Spokesman Review, May 5, 2002

Pikeminnows, formerly known as squawfish, are still wanted -- dead, on ice.

The largest wildlife bounty in history set a record last year when Northwest fishermen collected rewards of up to $6 a fish for 240,000 northern pikeminnows.

One Eastern Washington fishing fanatic made about $35,000 during the five-month reward season managed by Idaho, Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife agencies.

A handful of other fishermen collected $30,000 or more from the Bonneville Power Administration, which finances the program.

Most of the 3,351 successful fishermen earned just enough for bait and boat fuel.

In all, the BPA spent about $1million on rewards, out of the $2.8million it spends reducing the number of salmon-eating pikeminnows in the Snake and Columbia rivers. The rest of the money went mainly toward administering the program and scientific studies.

This year, the reward season from The Dalles Dam to the mouth of the Columbia River started April 29. The fishery from The Dalles Dam upstream will start May 13.

The seasons will end Sept. 29.

The payment schedule is as follows:

$4 apiece for the first 100 fish, $5 apiece for 101-400 fish, and $6 apiece for each fish over 400 caught by an individual.

The minimum size is 9 inches long.

Last year, fearing that salmon were especially vulnerable in drought-starved rivers, the BPA increased the bounties -- to $5, $6 and $8 -- midway through the season. About 140 anglers reached the $8 level.

In addition, the BPA offers cash prizes for anglers who catch pikeminnows that have been tagged by program managers.

While rewards for critters such as coyotes and wolves were common in America for decades, wildlife managers say no previous bounty matches the cost and catch of the pikeminnow program, which has collected 1.7 million fish since 1991.

Certainly there are a lot more pikeminnows than wolves.

A Western Washington company turns the pikeminnows into fish meal for fertilizer and poultry food.

A relative of non-native walleye and other minnows, pikeminnows are native to the Northwest. Biologists believe that dams and salmon hatcheries have artificially increased their population and allowed them to grow into larger, more destructive predators.

The bounty is for fish caught in the lower 397 miles of the Columbia (up to Priest Rapids Dam in central Washington) and the lower 247 miles of the Snake (up to Hells Canyon Dam in Idaho). Fish caught from tributary streams don't count.

At a glance
Contact Bounty-ful catch Information on the Northern Pikeminnow Reward Program, including locations of check stations on the Snake and Columbia Rivers, is available by calling (800) 858-9015 or on the Internet at

Staff Reports
Good Money Out There for Dead Pikeminnows
Spokesman Review, May 5, 2002

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