Talk about a down economy: Even the pikeminnow anglers are seeing their earnings decline.
Nikolay N. Zaremskiy of Gresham was the top earner for 2011 in the northern pikeminnow sport reward program, having caught nearly 8,000 fish and cashing them in for $66,478.
But while that's not bad for a six-month season, it pales in comparison to his record performance in 2010, when Zaremskiy caught more than 10,000 fish and earned $81,000.
Zaremskiy is no stranger to cashing in on pikeminnows. He set a previous earning record of $58,000 in 2008.
David R. Vasilchuk of Vancouver, Wash., was the No. 2 angler, earning $60,742 for the season that ran May 1-Oct. 16.
The program pays $4 for the first 100 fish, $5 for fish Nos. 101 through 400 and $8 per fish after 400. As an added incentive, some fish are tagged and worth $500 apiece to the lucky angler who catches them.
About 930 anglers participated this season, catching 155,000 northern pikeminnows. Only 80 reached the $8 per fish level.
Officials from Bonneville Power Administration, which funds the program, say removing the pikeminnows saves about 4 million young salmon and steelhead from predation.
Since 1991, more than 3 million pikeminnows have been removed from the Snake and Columbia rivers. The harvested fish are collected and processed into fertilizer and poultry food.