Northern pikeminnow bounty season opens on Columbia and Snake rivers; $107,800 made by last year’s top earner


The 2024 northern pikeminnow bounty season on the Columbia and Snake rivers opened May 1, with decent money to be made.

"Catch cash, save salmon," says the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program. Pikeminnow are voracious eaters, feeding on young salmon and steelhead in the two rivers in Washington and Oregon.

Last year the top angler in the program earned $107,800 for the fish they caught from May to September. And the runner-up made about $99,000.

But you don't have to fish all season to earn cash. You just have to sign up each day you want to fish for northern pikeminnow in the reward program and then turn in your catch at one of 22 stations.

The more you catch, the more you earn.

This year the first 25 northern pikeminnow you catch are worth $6.

After that you can earn $8 each until you catch 200. Any fish above that number can be turned in for $10 each.

In addition, specially tagged northern pikeminnow in the program are worth $500 each or $200 if a tag loss is verified.

Daily registration is required, but anglers no longer have to drive to the station where they will turn in their fish to sign up before they start fishing.

They can do it on their phone with the "Pikeminnow Registration" app released last year. But they still must pick the station where they will turn in their pikeminnow when they register.

The app also has program rules and times stations are open.

Date-stamped registration forms are also available at boxes at stations or from staff there during hours they are open.

The fish need to be turned into the pre-selected station within 24 hours of registration to be eligible for the bounty program. Vouchers need to be mailed in for payment within 30 days of the end of each year's season.

Northern pikeminnow must be 9 inches or longer to be eligible for a reward.

Where to fish for pikeminnow

For Tri-Cities area anglers, nearby stations are at Columbia Point Park, open 2-6 p.m.; Hood Park station in Burbank, open 3-6 p.m.; the Umatilla Boat Ramp in Oregon, open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Vernita Bridge Rest Area open 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Pikeminnow may be caught for the bounty program in the Columbia River from its estuary to Priest Rapids Dam upstream from the Tri-Cities and on the Snake River from its mouth up to Hells Canyon Dam.

In areas near the Tri-Cities, May and June are usually the months when the most pikeminnow are caught, and near the mouth of the Yakima River is one of the best places to catch them.

The reward program posts maps showing good areas historically to catch pikeminnow near each station.

Northern pikeminnow congregate in rocky areas with fast currents near dams, islands, stream mouths, points, eddies, rows of pilings, and ledges or bars in the river. Most fish are caught in 7 to 25 feet of water.

They move to feed on concentrations of smolts, freshwater clams and crayfish. After fishing an area for 30 minutes to an hour without good results, try somewhere upstream or downstream, advises the reward program.

Sunrise, sunset and night are generally the best fishing times and the pikeminnow may be in shallower water then.

The rewards program posts information online on how to fish with bait, grubs and lures for pikeminnow at

Saving Snake, Columbia salmon

If you catch and turn in northern pikeminnow, you will not only be earning money but helping the salmon and steelhead populations.

Northern pikeminnow eat millions of young salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake river systems each year.

The goal of the rewards program is not to eliminate the northern pikeminnow, which is a native species, but to reduce the number of large pikeminnow that eat the most young salmon and steelhead juveniles making their way to the ocean.

The Bonneville Power Administration pays for the program to help mitigate the impact of the Columbia and Snake river hydroelectric dams on salmon.

Since the rewards program started in 1991, more than 5.4 million northern pikeminnow have been caught ,and pikeminnow predation on juvenile salmon ha been reduced up to 40%.

The program has grown in popularity.

Last year participants surpassed 1 million angling days recorded since the program began.

"That milestone is a really big deal as a testament to a very successful, long-lived BPA project that has been helping Pacific Northwest salmonids for the past 33 years," said Eric Winther, project leader of the Columbia River Predator Control Program through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The program is administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, along with the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife.


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