Tag Archives: pikeminnow sport reward program

Unexpectedly, Cathlamet The Top Station In 2018 Pikeminnow Reward Fishery

Updated 1:41 p.m., Oct. 3, 2018

Turns out, it was a good year for Cathlamet’s M.D. Johnson and his granddaughter to dabble in pikeminnow fishing.

They tried their hand catching the Columbia River species for cash, making $85 in fairly short order.

THE PIKEMINNOW SPORT REWARD PROGRAM AIMS TO REDUCE PREDATION BY THE NATIVE SPECIES ON SALMON AND STEELHEAD SMOLTS MIGRATING THROUGH THE HYDROPOWER SYSTEM. IT PAYS ANGLERS FROM $5 TO $8 PER QUALIFYING FISH, WITH SPECIAL REWARDS FOR TAGGED ONES. (PIKEMINNOW.ORG)

“A little off pace for the coveted $100 large,” the Northwest Sportsman writer emailed me in July, “but who knows. I might hit a hot streak.”

True, that’s a far cry from how good the top rods did on the Lower Columbia, but as it turns out, the waters down here were 2018’s unexpected hot spot.

“It is the first time in the Pikeminnow Program’s 28-year history that the Cathlamet station has been the number one location,” noted Eric Winther, who heads up the state-federal effort aimed at reducing predation on salmonid smolts. “Just when I thought I had it all figured out.”

The season wrapped up this past Sunday for the year with 25,135 pikeminnow turned in at the Wahkiakum County seat — a whopping 8,000 more than any previous year back through at least 2000, and nearly as many as 2017 and 2016 combined.

The Snake River’s Boyer Park station produced the second most, 22,950, a bit of a dip over the previous season, but notably, catch at the third-place station, The Dalles, was less than half of 2017’s, with just 22,461.

Cathlamet accounted for 14 percent of the overall catch of 180,309 pikeminnow this year, a bit above average over the average since the program began in 1990.

Winther says that pikeminnow anglers do best in low-water years, but this season began with high flows. The Dalles got off to a very slow start after the program opened in May due to spring runoff that tamped down catch rates at traditionally the best station and led to its regulars fishing elsewhere.

“Despite less favorable river conditions, fishing success was slightly better this year — 7.5 catch per unit effort vs. 7.4 in 2017), although overall effort was down about 2,000 angler days,” he says. “Basically, even though there were some challenging river conditions early in the season, there were also some opportunities, especially in the lower river below Ridgefield and near the Cathlamet station.  All in all, a good solid year, slightly above average.”

So what the heck did make the Lower Columbia so good for anglers?

“My theory on the increased Cathlamet pikeminnow catch is this:  We had a long, hot, dry summer, as you know,” Winther says. “Tributaries in the Lower Columbia were lower and warmer than usual and oxygen levels were also likely lower than normal. This made many of the tribs somewhat inhospitable for both northern pikeminnow and for the many critters that they eat (crayfish, etc.).  Since a lot of our catch from that location was smaller northern pikeminnow, I think that maybe there were a bunch of those tributary pikeminnow that dropped down into the mainstem.”

He notes that August and September are usually the best months on the lower river and that top anglers typically target specific hot spots during peak months.

“We also had a lot of effort at Cathlamet in 2018 and many of our regular anglers had their best ever harvest totals this year. In the end, I think that maybe 2018 river conditions just brought a lot of our top 20 anglers to the lower river at the same time of year as when a lot more of these tributary pikeminnow had dropped into the Columbia. Then high catch rates begot more effort which resulted in even higher catch rates and more effort,” Winther theorizes.

Changes at Boyer Park also pushed its regulars to fish elsewhere and that probably helped too, he thinks.

Average daily catch for registered anglers across all stations was 7.5, with Ridgefield leading with 15.9, followed by Lyons Ferry, 10.9, Rainier and Boyer Park tied at 10.1, Beacon Rock, 9.6, and Cathlamet, 9.0.

The Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program pays anglers from $5 to $8 per qualifying fish, with $500 for tagged ones.

The season’s top moneymaker earned $70,949 by turning in 8,686 pikeminnows. The second highest tally was $49,529 for a fisherman who brought in 5,898.

Program managers remind registered anglers that they should turn in their vouchers by Nov. 15 to receive payment for their catches.

Records also show that fishermen incidentally caught 15,094 smallmouth, 10,527 yellow perch, 5,510 catfish and bullheads, and 1,297 walleye. The upper Snake pools were best for bass, the Lower Columbia was tops for yellowbellies, the Richland area was best for whiskerfish and John Day area was best for ‘eyes.

High Waters Make For Slow Start To Pikeminnow Reward Fishery

The big spring runoff that’s flooding valleys and alfalfa fields in the upper Inland Northwest has also affected the start of the pikeminnow sport reward fishery downstream on the Lower and Mid-Columbia and Snake Rivers, but catches are expected to improve in the coming weeks.

THE PIKEMINNOW SPORT REWARD FISHERY PAYS ANGLERS TO REMOVE THE NATIVE SPECIES THAT PREYS ON SALMON AND STEELHEAD SMOLTS THAT HAVE BECOME EASIER FOR THE PISCOVORES TO CHASE DOWN IN THE COLUMBIA AND SNAKE HYDROPOWER SYSTEM’S RESERVOIRS. (WDFW)

Through June 3, anglers have caught 34,725, less than half of 2016’s start and the fewest of the past five springs to this point of the season.

“High water really hurts our catch rates, although eventually our experienced pikeminnow anglers kind of figure it out and then catch rates pick up,” notes WDFW’s Eric Winther.

He heads up the program that pays participating fishermen on the Columbia between Cathlamet and Tri-Cities, as well as the Snake below Clarkston for removing the native species that preys on salmon and steelhead smolts migrating through the hydropower system.

“The high water really messes with newer anglers trying to learn how to target pikeminnow,” he notes. “It’s hard enough to learn when conditions are good, but when you have nearly twice the flows, it can be downright discouraging.”

Flows at Bonneville Dam have ranged from 350,000 to nearly 500,000 cubic feet per second since the fishery began May 1. Average over the past 10 years is 250,000 to 325,000 cfs.

At this same point in 2017, anglers had caught 47,250 pikeminnow; in 2016, 70,691; in 2015, 63,787; and 2014, 38,745.

Still, the tally is higher than 2013 (29,970) and 2012 (26,882).

Most notably down is catch turned in at The Dalles, which last year yielded 44,667 overall but so far has only given up 9,337 through its traditionally most productive weeks of season.

“The Dalles catch is definitely off from last year,” confirms Winther. “What happened was that lots of anglers went there at the start of the season, conditions were tough, so they spread out and started looking in other areas.”

Catches at Cathlamet, Willow Grove, Rainier Kalama and Ridgefield were all up this May compared to last spring.

“Just when some people are giving up on The Dalles, the water finally starts dropping and catch rates have jumped up. Should she increasing catches for the next three to four weeks as we move into their peak spawn time and river conditions improve,” he says.

The sport reward program pays anglers from $5 to $8 per pikeminnow, with tagged ones worth $500.

So far this season, the top angler has earned $9,617 from 1,057 fish turned in.

The season runs through Sept. 30.

For more details, including fishing maps and info on three free fishing clinics coming up — including one tomorrow in Longview — check out pikeminnow.org.