Modern Day Bounty Hunting

There was an interesting article in the Seattle Times the other day about the state paying people -- average citizens with a rod and reel -- a bounty for each pikeminnow they catch. Apparently the pikeminnows are voracious predators that feed on newly-hatched salmon as they head downstream. Rarely does a day go by without one of the two major newspapers in the area printing a story about salmon. Without exaggeration, it's safe to say that salmon are to Washington what tobacco is to North Carolina and cattle is to Texas.

So you can imagine the pains the state takes to protect them. Typically, the stories are about fish ladder construction or pollution or over-fishing, and most often these stories just reak of bureacracy, greed, or regulatory headaches. But this is different. The money is going to anybody who wants to go and catch some pikeminnows.

This past season anglers earned $4 each for the first 100 fish they caught; $5 each for 101 to 400; and $8 each for any additional fish above 400.
Anglers who turn in their catch to check stations are paid for each fish that measures at least 9 inches long — the size at which they become a threat to young salmon.

State Fish and Wildlife also pays $500 for each tagged pikeminnow.

More than 5,000 anglers took part this past season, catching 240,955 fish and earning $1.5 million.

This year's top angler caught 4,740 pikeminnows, including six tagged fish. The second place fisher caught 4,800, but fewer tagged ones.

"The average angler in this fishery catches six to seven fish per day," Winther said. "But as with salmon or steelhead anglers, the top 5 percent catch 80 percent of the fish."

Wondering how much money the top two fisherman caught? In the five month season that this program takes place during the leading angler earned $39,620 and the runner-up took home $38,084.

I love this idea. $40,000 isn't much to the state, but to the guy who got to spend 5 months reeling in nearly 4,800 fish, that's damn good money doing something he likely loves to do. Just goes to show that sometimes the best solution to a large-scale problem is to just give the public a small monetary incentive and let them put their time and energy to work.

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