Top pikeminnow angler earns more than $77,000

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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A Portland angler — for the second year in a row — has earned more than $70,000 in the Columbia River pikeminnow sport reward program.

Nikolay N. Zaremskiy caught 9,324 pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers in the 2012 season to earn $77,238. A year ago, he earned $71,470.

"He like the Michael Jordan of the program,'' said Eric Winther, program manager in Vancouver. "He's pretty extraordinary what he can do.''

The sport reward program pays anglers a bounty to catch pikeminnow that are 9 inches or longer from the Columbia and Snake rivers. Pikeminnow are effective predators of young salmon and steelhead migrating down the system to the Pacific Ocean.

The reward season begins in early May and ends Sept. 30.

Zaremskiy caught 100 "Tier 1'' fish, which pay $4 each; 300 "Tier 2" fish, which pay $5 and 8,916 "Tier 3'' fish worth $8 each. He also caught eight tagged pikeminnow, worth $500 each.

The runner-up was David Vasilchuk of Vancouver, who caught a total of 4,616 pikeminnow totaling $41,542. Vasilchuk caught 12 of the $500 tagged fish.

Third place went to Steve A. Weber of Salem, who caught 4,602 pikeminnow and earned $36,510. The No. 10 angler earned $21,616 and the No. 20 angler earned $13,622.

Overall, rewards were paid for 152,631 pikeminnow totaling $1,087,900. There were a total of 906 anglers, with 97 making it to the Tier 3 category.