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Hook Pikeminnow, and Save Salmon

by Mark Yuasa, staff reporter
Seattle Times, May 6, 2007

The bounty fishing program to nab the troublesome northern pikeminnow fish in the Columbia River begins May 14.

The cash-reward project funded by the Bonneville Power Administration began in 1990, and is designed to get rid of the juvenile salmon- and steelhead-devouring predators better known as squawfish.

The squawfish season will remain open through Sept. 30 from the Columbia River mouth to Priest Rapids Dam in central Washington, and from the Snake River mouth up to Hells Canyon Dam.

The first 100 fish [9 inches or longer] caught by each angler is worth $4 apiece; the next 300 are $5; and after 400 fish it is $8. Specially tagged fish are worth $500 apiece.

Last year, 31,639 anglers managed to land 232,883 fish, including 226 tagged fish. Since 1990, more than 2.8 million squawfish have been eradicated from both rivers.

Many anglers average a few hundred dollars during the entire season, but some are known to make a decent yearly wage on these pesky fish.

Last year, David Vasilchuk of Vancouver caught 5,714 squawfish (eight were tagged fish) and earned $48,348 before taxes. Second was Nikolay Zaremskiy of Gresham, Ore., who got $45,351, and third went to Thomas Papst of West Linn, Ore., with $42,388. In all, the top 20 anglers cashed in $487,229 for 61,262 fish (47 were tagged).

According to Craig Miller with the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, the payoff last season was the largest since the reward program began 17 years ago.

Vasilchuk and Zaremskiy seem to have found the secret to catching squawfish and earning good money the last few years.

In 2005, Vasilchuk was the runner-up with $39,620 and 4,746 fish, and Zaremskiy took top honors with $38,014 and 4,800 fish.

In 2004, Zaremskiy came in second with $31,654 and 4,362 fish, and Vasilchuk placed ninth, earning $23,948 with 2,699 fish.

In 2003, Zaremskiy took sixth place with $15,420 for 2,622 fish, and Vasilchuk placed eighth with $14,248 for 2,442 fish. In 2002, Zaremskiy placed 11th with $13,418, hooking 2,303 fish.

The highest catches last year occurred at The Dalles Boat Basin check station with 45,688 fish caught.

The second-highest catch of 37,711 came from Boyer Park in the Snake River below Lower Granite Dam, followed by 23,507 fish from the M. James Gleason ramp in the Lower Columbia River Washougal.

The fish caught aren't just thrown away in the trash; they are used to make liquid organic fertilizer for agriculture and fish meal for poultry and cattle.

There will be 17 check stations along both rivers. Anglers must register in person each day before fishing.

Catches must be checked in at the station each day, and reward vouchers will be given.

The fish prefer rocky areas with fast currents near dams, islands, river mouths, points, eddies, rows of pilings and ledges or bars in the river. They prefer depths of 7 to 25 feet.

Early morning, near sunset and at night are prime time to catch them. Baits of choice include worms, salmon eggs, fish entrails, chicken livers, crayfish tails, shrimp and grasshoppers. Artificial plastic lures like grubs, worms or shads work well. Squawfish are attracted to light-colored lures in the day and darker ones at night.

Related Sites: 800-858-9015

Mark Yuasa
Hook Pikeminnow, and Save Salmon
Seattle Times, May 6, 2007

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