Think of the date on Pikeminnow.org that says the sport-reward fishery will wrap up Aug. 31** as more of a possibility than a hard deadline.
Yesterday it was breathlessly reported here as the latter — and it could indeed end then or even earlier if funding for the popular program that pays anglers to remove the native but salmonid-smolt-snarfing species from the Columbia and Snake runs out because record numbers are caught.
But with water conditions on the rivers likely to be high during the best part of the season in spring and a boost in funding confirmed for this year, that seems unlikely and fishing should extend through Sept. 30, as usual.
The online warning came about after last year’s good season and 2015’s enhanced awards for tagged fish ate up the $1.5 million that had been budgeted to pay anglers for catching pikeminnows.
That gap was bridged inseason with a $300,000-plus grant from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
After the season wrapped up and going into this one, it wasn’t clear if there would be similar federal funding, but according to WDFW’s pikeminnow program manager Eric Winther, money has subsequently been committed.
While that information doesn’t appear to have fully made the rounds, this year’s biggest challenge for anglers — one of whom made over $100,000 last year by catching over 14,000 pikeminnows — may be spring runoff.
“With the expected high water, I believe it will be more challenging early in the year, but once past that it should be OK,” Winther says.
He says available funding should pay for the catch of up to 225,350 pikeminow, last year’s tally.
“Our 26-year average harvest is 175,000 to 180,000 fish, and typically on high-water years, harvest is lower than for low-water years,” he says.
The program begins May 1, with the traditional peak of fishing around mid-June, when the pikeminnow gather for the annual spawn, making them easier to catch in large numbers.