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Coquille's latest tact on invasive bass: cash for catch

Photo provided by the Coquille Tribe.
The Gulseths celebrate one of two prize-winning fish caught at the derby. (From L to R:) Tina and Doug Gulseth, niece Rosie Gulseth, daughter Misty Lee and granddaughter Payton Lee. Payton was the big winner of the day, reeling in a $200 fish.

This past weekend, the Coquille Tribe held its first-ever bass derby, in another effort to remove the invasive fish from their waterways by offering cash incentives. And the big prize fish is still at large.

Photo provided by the Coquille Tribe.
Kyle O’Hara and Michaela Campbell show off their catch: 34 voracious little bass.

Before the derby, the tribe tagged almost four dozen bass with microchips. Each carries different cash prize values. 200 people showed up, and reeled in more than 2,000 small-mouth bass. Some anglers won $50, $100, and $200. But one fish is still roaming the waters, with a $1,000 payoff.

“The better the price tag, the better the turnout,” said Fred Fry, a commissioner with the Coquille River Port District and derby organizer.

“Smallmouth bass, they’re an invasive species, they’re not indigenous. And they’re unbalancing the ecosystem, and they’re eating all the small salmon fish, so we have a much diminished run before they ever get out to the ocean.”

In a tribal press release, the Coquille summed up a few of the local winners of this first derby:

“Saturday (July 16) was a big “fish and chips” day for one Myrtle Point family. The Gulseths came out in force and accounted for two of the weekend’s prize bass. Rosie Gulseth collected $100. Thirteen-year-old cousin Payton Lee, visiting from Vancouver, Wash., bested her with a $200 catch .

“That’ll pay for gas,” joked Payton’s mom, Misty Lee.

“A young Coquille couple, Kyle O’Hara and Michaela Campbell, hooked 34 bass while fishing from stand-up paddleboards. One of their fish carried a $50 microchip. The money will go into the couple’s wedding fund. The bass they caught had definitely been chowing down on juvenile salmon. Three of the couple’s fish spat up half-digested smolts.”

The next derby is Labor Day weekend. Details are on the Port District’s website.

Sponsors include the Coquille Tribe, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Roseburg Forest Products, Timberline Taxidermy, 3J Ranches and Spruce Street Bar and Grill.

Copyright @2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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