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Pikeminnow Fishery Opens

by Mark Gibson
The Dalles Chronicle, May 14, 2016

David Vasilchuk pulls in a net containing a pikeminnow that he quickly caught while bounty fishing on the Columbia Rive (Amanda Smith photo) The northern pikeminnow bounty fishery got underway in a big way this year, with 7,523 fish caught in The Dalles area during the first full week of fishing, according to data provided by the Bonneville Power Administration. In the John Day Dam area, 823 fish were caught in the same time period.

The catch was double the highest weekly catch reported in those areas during the entire 2015 season, which ran from May through October.

This year's season opened May 1 and ends Sept. 30. The program began in 2000.

The Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery Program, funded by the BPA and administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, pays anglers for each northern pikeminnow that they catch that is nine inches or larger. Rewards range from $5 to $8 per fish, and special tagged fish are worth $500.

Working for the fisheries commission is the Washington Fish and Wildlife Departmen.

The agency collects and counts the catch at stations located along the river, locally in The Dalles and Rufus, and the Oregon

Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is responsible for research upon which the program is based, said Steve Wilson, senior program manager with the marine commission.

Northern pikeminnow feed heavily on salmon and steelhead juveniles. The goal of the program is not to eliminate northern pikeminnow, but rather to reduce the average size and curtail the number of larger, older fish, according to information provided by the BPA. Reducing the number of these predators can greatly help the salmon and steelhead juveniles making it out to sea.

What makes a successful pikeminnow fisherman?

Austin Evans, manager of Gorge Outfitters Supply in Rufus, noted that detailed information was hard to come by.

"The guys are pretty secretive," he explained. "I do sell them a lot of Gitz attractant. Smoke Sparkle is pretty popular." The attractants are a soft "skirt" placed over a hook with a jig or weighted head. "They make their own jig heads, with a longer shank," he added.

The Gitz, which resemble a soft squid, come in a variety of colors: Copper, purple, brown, lucky green, leech and motor oil, to name a few. Night crawlers are also popular.

Evans himself has only chased the pikeminnow once.

He rigged up with a "cannonball" weight, 1/2 or 3/4 ounce, placed an arm length (about 2 feet) above a number 4 or 6 size bait hook.

The fishery goes 24 hours a day, fish being perhaps more active in the morning and again in evening. A lot of fisherman work the river at night as well, he said. "There are people out there all day and all night," he said.

Evans baited with night crawlers, and fished from the bank just below the John Day Dam in Rufus. "It's more productive if you have a boat," he noted.

He couldn't say how effective his advice might be, however: "We got skunked," he chuckled. "We only caught a couple of bass."

Information on how to fishy the northern pikeminnow fishery is available online at

Mark Gibson
Pikeminnow Fishery Opens
The Dalles Chronicle, May 14, 2016

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