Richland angler wins $4,000 from BPA

PORTLAND -- The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery Program paid out $40,000 in special awards to 20 lucky anglers in September, the Bonneville Power Administration announced today.

One angler, Reed Plachta of Richland, received a pair of $2,000 awards because his name was selected twice in the weekly prize drawings.

The special awards were part of a new incentive offered by BPA in September designed to hook more of the salmon predators before the end of the sport reward season. Four drawings were held during the month, and a total of $40,000 in awards was distributed.

But the real winners are the salmon, because pikeminnows eat millions of juvenile salmon and steelhead every year. Reducing the number of these predators through this program helps boost salmon and steelhead survival.

"Anglers in the region told us they liked having this additional award incentive. We want to keep the momentum going in order to reduce the number of these juvenile salmon predators," Russell Porter, senior program manager for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, said in a news release. "Anglers play an important role in keeping pikeminnow numbers manageable so that young salmon have a better chance to migrate out to the sea."

Porter said that because of the extra incentives, the weekly returns of pikeminnow to the registration stations averaged about 500 more fish per week than comparable periods last year.

An unusually cold spring kept pikeminnow from being active early in the season, plus high gas prices -- according to feedback from fishers -- cut into their normal incentive payouts. This prompted program organizers to create the special September award incentives.

The total pikeminnow catch is estimated to come in at about 155,000 fish this year, down from a typical 190,000 to 200,000.

The annual pikeminnow program kicked off the week of May 5 and was going to stay open through Sept. 28. But the season is being extended through Oct. 15 with the most productive pikeminnow registration stations remaining open. The special awards were only for the month of September.

Administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and funded by the Bonneville Power Administration, the program is designed to reduce the number of, but not eradicate, northern pikeminnow.

Since 1991, more than 3.2 million northern pikeminnow have been removed from the Snake and Columbia rivers through the sport reward program. Last year 191,154 northern pikeminnow were turned in. As a result, northern pikeminnow predation on juvenile salmon in 2007 was cut by an estimated 37 percent.

For more details on the regular program rules, the special prize rules, plus pikeminnow fishing tips, and registration site locations, please visit www.pikeminnow.org.