Portland, Ore. – A popular Northwest fishing program is getting a late start this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The 2020 Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery will not open on May 1, as originally planned. The fishery is tentatively scheduled to open May 11, for registered anglers with licenses to fish in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Fishery updates, including possible opening day changes, will be announced on the website, www.pikeminnow.org.
Stay at home orders issued in March by governors in Washington and Oregon closed or limited fishing and limited access to some recreational facilities, including boat ramps. Washington recently reopened many outdoor recreational activities on a limited basis, including opening most fishing seasons and allowing day-use of many boat ramps.
While the lifting of these restrictions is good news for anglers eagerly awaiting the start of the Northern pikeminnow reward fishery program, when it opens anglers will see some changes to registration and turn-in procedures. These changes are intended to protect the health and well-being of program employees and fishing enthusiasts. Program participants should expect additional barriers, signs and floor markers at stations to encourage social distancing. Anglers will be encouraged not to congregate in groups near registration stations and asked to unload their fish into designated containers.
Some program elements haven’t changed. Registered anglers will again earn $5 to $8 for each Northern pikeminnow that is at least 9 inches long. The more fish an angler reels in, the more each Northern pikeminnow is worth. Specially tagged Northern pikeminnow will be worth $500. Last year the top fisherman in the program removed 6,482 Northern pikeminnow and earned more than $53,000.
Northern pikeminnow are voracious eaters, consuming millions of young salmon and steelhead each year. Since 1990, anglers paid through the program have removed nearly five million Northern pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers. The program annually reduces predation from Northern pikeminnow on young salmon and steelhead by approximately 40%.
Check the fishery website, www.pikeminnow.org, or call 800-858-9015 for updates on the 2020 season. The website also has details on how to register for the program and applicable state fishing regulations. Anglers will also find resources on the site to help boost their fishing game, including fishing maps and how-to videos.
The program is administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in cooperation with the Washington and Oregon departments of fish and wildlife and is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration.