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Pikeminnow roundup successful so far

How is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s pikeminnow fishing contest going? We fisher-people sure would like to see as many of those salmon-killing fish out of the Rogue River as possible.

— Pam, email submission

ODFW’s Rogue Pikeminnow Roundup — meant to solicit the help of anglers to remove as many of the non-native, salmon-eating pikeminnows from the Rogue as possible — has had a pretty solid inaugural season, with at least three dozen people emailing in their participation, organizers say.

“For a pilot year, I’m pretty happy with that,” says Ryan Battleson, the ODFW fish biologist running the roundup.

Under the contest, anglers catch and keep all the pikeminnow they can, then photograph themselves with their five largest ones and send the pictures to ODFW’s Central Point office to qualify for raffle prizes that include $20 gift cards to Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford.

Other prizes await those who catch and record the biggest and the most pikeminnow — formerly called squawfish. Also, every pikeminnow 15 inches or longer will get an angler entered in a separate drawing.

Anglers are asked to keep the pikeminnow they catch, and ODFW biologists will pick up carcasses each Monday through Sept. 2 and take them to Wildlife Images Rehabilitation Center in Merlin to be fed to rehabbing wildlife.

Carcasses are collected from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Wildlife Images and Bradbury’s Gun-n-Tackle shop in Grants Pass.

So far, the leader in the most-weight category has about 8 pounds of fish registered, and the length leader is up to more than 200 inches of pikeminnow, Battleson says.

But Battleson believes some sand-baggers haven’t brought their catch in for weight yet.

“If people want to bring in a five-gallon bucket of pikeminnow, I’d be happy to weigh that,” he says.

As to exactly how many have been killed, Battleson is remaining somewhat coy.

“I’m not ready to say what the numbers are just yet,” he says. “But I think it has been very successful, especially in getting little kids excited about fishing. Folks are having fun.”

Signs detailing the various drawing options and other material are available at boat ramps along the Rogue from Gold Hill to Galice.

A 1993 ODFW study showed that pikeminnow more than 10 inches long in the Rogue eat infant wild salmon and steelhead, and juveniles out-compete wild salmon and steelhead fry for food and space.

Angling groups in the mid 1990s held pikeminnow derbies to raise awareness of their impact on the Rogue and as a way to get anglers to help purge as many salmon-killing predators as they could with hook and line.

Other rivers with pikeminnows have derbies, and the Bonneville Power Administration pays anglers for pikeminnow they take out of the Columbia River. But this is the first ODFW-led pikeminnow effort on the Rogue.

Pikeminnow and wild salmon have lived together in the Rogue since pikeminnow were illegally stocked in the Rogue in the 1980s, and they thrive in warm water, so they are most prevalent in the Gold Hill to Galice stretch.

They do extremely well in reservoirs, so the removal of Savage Rapids and Gold Ray dams helped reduce pikeminnow habitat.

Pikeminnow were found upstream of both dams before their removal, so the dams’ absences don’t lead to pikeminnow spreading into cooler stretches of the upper Rogue, water generally not suitable for them, biologists say.

The best long-term solution toward pikeminnow abatement in the Rogue is to keep tributaries producing as much cool water as possible — keeping water more salmon-friendly than pikeminnow-friendly in the mainstem Rogue, Battleson says.

While culling pikeminnow, anglers should treat them humanely, and fishers should not target native species such as suckers, which should be released, Battleson says.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.