Anglers in the northern pikeminnow sport-reward program catch lots of other fish — particularly warm-water species — from the Columbia and Snake rivers.
And while there is no bounty paid for this incidental catch, it’s useful information for sportsmen interested in bass, panfish and walleye.
The incidental catch information is available weekly online at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Follow the menus through Fishing, Fishing Reports and Creel Reports to northern pikeminnow. (http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/northern_pikeminnow/)
Smallmouth bass are the most commonly caught of the incidental species. The report lists smallmouth, walleye, channel catfish-catfish, shad, sturgeon and yellow perch at each of the 21 pikeminnow registration stations.
Eric Winther, pikeminnow manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the program has been collecting weekly catch data for the sport species since 1991.
“I’ve always though it could be of some use to anglers fishing the Columbia and Snake rivers who are not obsessed with only salmon and steelhead,” Winther said.
In 2013, pikeminnow anglers caught nearly 9,000 smallmouth bass, almost 2,500 channel catfish, more than 2,000 yellow perch and more than 4,000 sturgeon.
The data also shows that while pikeminnow anglers only catch a few hundred walleyes each season, 66 percent of the walleye are kept.
Winther said publishing the incidental catch data shows sportsmen what other species are being caught and where.
“I was also thinking this might be useful from an angler awareness point of view, by letting people know that there may be good opportunities available to catch channel catfish, walleye and smallmouth from the Columbia rather than just lowland lakes,” he said.
So far this season, the reports show the greatest incidental catch of warm-water species at the Columbia Point station in the Tri-Cities.
Not surprising, a goodly number of incidental-caught walleye are reported at Maryhill. That station is just downstream from John Day Dam on a portion of the Columbia River known for its walleye angling.
A couple of surprises in the report are a consistent catch of sturgeon at The Dalles and — to a lesser extent — yellow perch in the Longview-to-Kalama stretch of the lower Columbia.
The program pays a reward of $4 for the first 100 pikeminnow, $5 for fish Nos. 101 to 400 and $8 for fish No 401 and more. The minimum size limit is 9 inches.
Formerly called northern squawfish, pike minnows are native to western North America and look a bit like walleyes. They are effective predators of young salmon and steelhead migrating down the Columbia River, eating millions each year.
Since 1990, more than 4.2 million pikeminnow have been removed by the sport-reward program. The top angler earned $76,000. The reward season continues through Sept. 30.