Fight to protect salmon against smallmouth bass sees success with fishing derby
A cash-prize fishing derby has proven to be an effective tactic against invasive bass in southern Oregon.
To date, almost 12,000 fish have been reeled in since last year by anglers, as part of the annual small mouth bass derby.
The event is hosted by the Port of Coquille River and sponsored by the Coquille Tribe, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and 3J Ranchers.
Brenda Meade, chair of the Coquille Indians, told KLCC that this helps reduce a major scourge in their local waterways.
“They are just eating machines on the river, and they’re eating the salmon smolt,” said Meade. “Salmon…there would be a huge loss, culturally significant to our ceremonies. To traditional foods. To our way of life.”
Meade said the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife did a survey of salmon in the Coquille River and estuaries, and determined that in a ten-year period from 2011 to 2021, returning salmon numbers were near extinction levels, or 99%.
Since then, the tribe and ODFW have collaborated on several ventures to reduce the bass population. This has included spearfishing, electrofishing, and the introduction of the derby last year.
Meade said it made her happy and hopeful to see so many “young people standing out there on the edges of the bridges” fishing for smallmouth bass, and acknowledged that living with the invasive fish may be the norm. But reducing the bass helps the salmon, as well as lampreys and other wildlife.
The 2nd annual derby started in June, and has been extended to Oct. 1. There are 80 tagged fish that can win anglers money, with payouts ranging from $50 all the way up to one worth $10,000 (which organizers say remains at large).
Derby contestants have to pay a $20 entry fee and sign up before fishing. Volunteers will be at Sturdivant Park in Coquille on Saturdays between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and at the Myrtle Point boat ramp on Sundays at the same time to scan catches for microchips identifying them as cash-winning fish.
More details on the derby can be found online at thePOCRD.com.