Northern pikeminnows are native to the Pacific Northwest and are found in most Columbia River tributaries, where they eat millions of salmon and steelhead juveniles each year. The addition of dozens of hydroelectric dams in the Columbia and Snake rivers has created ideal habitat for pikeminnows. The bounty is offered by Bonneville Power Administration, which manages the dams and spends millions of dollars every year trying to help young salmon.
The program operates from May 1 to September 30 every year and the rewards for the 2022 season range from $6 to $10 per fish which is more than the $5 to $8 per fish offered in 2021. Biologists estimate more than 5.1 million pikeminnows have been removed from the two rivers since the bounty program began in 1990.
Eric Winther, the head of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife pikeminnow program said:
A lot of folks in the early years would go out, they’d want to make their millions and they’d find out it’s not that easy. There’s no real demand, no market for it, So outside of paying people for it, there’s no way to really catch and exploit those fish. They are the main fish predator of baby salmon and steelhead. Studies show they take about 78% of all the smolts that are eaten by fish are taken by pikeminnow.
One angler was paid $61,000 for the northern pikeminnow he caught in the Columbia and Snake rivers last summer while the most anyone has ever made in a season is $119,000.
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