This past weekend, 108 anglers from across the United States descended upon Ilwaco to participate in the annual Bud's Columbia River Challenge. Using the entire nine boat fleet of Pacific Salmon Charters and Mike Cassinelli's Coho Sally, the fishermen and women set out to determine who could catch and release the most sturgeon. Winners were determined by measuring every fish, of any size, before releasing it. The invitational tournament included three nights' stay in a motel, all breakfasts, lunches and beverages, two days fishing in teams of six fishers and a hat and a T-shirt.
There were prizes given on each boat for the first fish and legal fish caught and released during the tournament which hosted $15,000 worth of cash and prizes. There was a banquet with a live band on Saturday night where final awards were distributed. Merchants from Idaho, Washington and Oregon donated most of the prizes.
During the two-day event these sporting men and women caught and released 785 sturgeon. The breakdown was 577 shorts (12-44-inches), 195 legal (45-60-inches) and 8 oversized fish.
The winning boat was skippered by 'team player' Milt Gudgell, on the Sara Kay with a total catch of 5,653 inches. Milt narrowly edged out Jon 'the Vacuum' Hanson, running the Sea Venture. A good time was had by all, and there are still plenty of sturgeon left in the river.
By the way, the sturgeon that are being caught are meaty 'big shouldered', with lots of fight.
Pike minnow anglers earning more $$$Pike minnows, which prey on salmon, are the target of fishermen who fish for money, as part of BPA's salmon enhancement work under the 1980 Pacific Northwest Power Act. As of May 31, the program, now in its fourteenth season, is implemented by WDFW. Anglers are paid $5 each for the first 100, $6 each for 101-400 and $8 each pike minnow in excess of 400 fish.
Ron Malast is owner/operator of the charter boat Big Dipper operating out of Pacific Salmon Charters in Ilwaco.