In response to Mr. Hartman’s Dec. 28 letter to the editor regarding the northern pikeminnow removal program in the Columbia River (“Why release more of the fish you’re trying to eradicate”), the pikeminnow is native to the Columbia River Basin and is not an invasive species. With the damming of the Columbia River, the reservoirs behind the dams created ideal habitat for the species, which prefer warmer waters found in lakes or slow-moving rivers. The pikeminnow populations increased in the string of reservoirs that was once a free-flowing river. At the same time, the damming of the river created barriers to the outmigration of juvenile salmonids, which normally would be carried downstream to the Pacific Ocean by the Columbia River current, making the outmigrant salmon easy prey for the pikeminnows. Both Oregon and Washington have implemented pikeminnow removal rewards programs funded by the Bonneville Power Administration that pay sport fishers a bounty for each pikeminnow that they catch and present to designated collection stations.
I believe that Mr. Hartman may have misunderstood or misinterpreted the information presented in the article that he referenced in his letter. I’m unaware of any pikeminnow enhancement program in the Columbia River being operated by any federal or state agency. An internet search confirmed this. Wildlife officials did release 1,000 tagged pikeminnows worth $500 each as an incentive to get more sport fishers to participate in the removal program and reduce the numbers of pikeminnows in the Columbia River system. The estimated population abundance of pikeminnow in the lower 300 kilometers of the Columbia River from the Dalles Dam to the estuary was between 2,580 to 3,020 fish per kilometer as of 2004, so a release of 1,000 tagged fish represents an insignificant number of fish when compared to the total population of pikeminnow in the system.