Pikeminnow anglers have good opening day

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Anglers had a good day on Wednesday at The Dalles and in the Tri-Cities in the first day of the Columbia River northern pikeminnow sport reward program.

“The Dalles has been the red-hot spot for the last few years, and that was certainly the case on Wednesday – a lot of anglers, and a lot of fish,” said Eric Winther, program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “And the Tri-Cities station at Columbia Point Park in Richland reported that they’ve had their best day in recent memory.”

Rewards of $4 to $8 per pikeminnow measuring at least nine inches are paid from now through Sept. 30. Pikeminnows consume millions of young salmon and steelhead migrating down the Columbia and Snake rivers each year.

The predator accounts for about 80 percent of all fish that kill young salmon.

“We expected things to start off good as the river, condition-wise, is pretty good,” Winther said. “Typically, lower water years are better for us as the river is not high and muddy.”

Special tagged pikeminnow are worth $500 if caught. One such $500 fish was caught Wednesday at the Interstate 5 Bridge.

Pikeminnow are native to the Northwest, but construction of the dams created conditions that increased their numbers.

Participants in the reward program must sign up daily at the registration station before fishing and need a state fishing license.

Bonneville Power Adminstration funds the program.

“Our peak – our best fishing – is usually about the third week of June for northern pikeminnow,” Winther said. “With things lining up with the river conditions, the fishing should just keep getting better between now and then.”