One angler finished the 2023 Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program with plenty of dough in their bank account. According to catch data, the top angler in the program caught and removed 10,127 pikeminnow, earning $101,520 in bounties. The next best angler nearly reached six figures, earning $98,510 for 9,786 fish. 

The Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program is a yearly conservation bounty program. It operates on the lower Columbia River and is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The program runs each summer from May 1 to September 30 and doles out significant cash to hundreds of anglers for removing pikeminnow—a species known to prey on salmon and steelhead smolt. Critics of the program say removing the native fish species obfuscates the real problem—the BPA’s dams along the Lower Snake River

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the program is hands-down one of the best ways to earn money by catching an unwanted fish species. This year, the program offered anglers $6 a fish for the first 25 qualifying (9-inch-plus) fish of the season. From 25 to 200, each fish paid $8 apiece, and 200-plus were $10 each. Specially tagged fish gave anglers a chance at $200 to $500 in reward money. 

This year’s bounties were the same as in 2022, when the BPA raised its rewards to spur participation in the program. The top angler in 2023 earned the second-most ever of an angler in the program, lagging behind an unnamed angler who made $119,341 in 2016 for catching a 14,019 pikeminnow. The BPA doesn’t release the identities of the anglers that participate in its program each year. 

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In total, 11,954 anglers creeled 156,505 pikeminnows in 2023. “The harvest was very close to the 32-year average of 160,000 and effort increased by more than 10 percent [from 2022],” program manager Eric Winther told NW Sportsman. “All in all, [it was] a really solid year punctuated by some exceptionally good fishing during several windows of opportunity in multiple areas.”