Idaho might pay you $1,000 if you reel in one of these non-native fish

Ever wished you could get paid to fish? If you land one of these non-native fish, you could get as much as $1,000 thanks to a new Idaho Department of Fish and Game incentive.

According to a news release, Fish and Game is partnering with energy company Avista to create a lottery for walleye caught in North Idaho’s Pend Oreille system. The incentive program, which begins March 1, would award $1,000 to anglers who submit fish heads that have been tagged by Fish and Game.

So what’s the catch?

The tags, injected into the walleyes’ noses, are microscopic, which means anglers won’t know whether they’ve landed one of the 50 fish the agency tagged. Still, for every walleye fish head turned in, anglers will be entered into a monthly drawing for 10 cash prizes of $100 each.

Walleye, a type of perch native to the Midwest, have infiltrated the Pend Oreille system, which includes Lake Pend Oreille and parts of the Pend Oreille River and its tributaries. Fish and Game officials believe the fish stem from walleye that were illegally introduced into a nearby reservoir in the 1990s. Now the fast-reproducing fish could pose a threat to native species.

“Biologists now fear walleye may cause a decline in kokanee and other high-demand sportfish, such as rainbow trout, native bull trout and cutthroat trout, and bass,” Fish and Game said in the news release.

Officials say the lottery is an experimental approach to see how effective anglers can be at keeping walleye populations reined in. In addition to the lottery, Fish and Game is also launching a gill-netting program. Fish harvested in gill nets will be donated to North Idaho food banks.

Fish and Game has seen success with a similar program meant to curb lake trout populations in the Pend Oreille system, the news release said. The lake trout lottery is ongoing, and anglers can earn $15 per head for the species.

Heads from lake trout and walleye can be submitted, along with data slips, at a variety of freezer locations around the Pend Oreille system. Find a full list of freezer locations, as well as detailed information on the incentive program, here.

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Nicole Blanchard is the Idaho Statesman’s outdoors reporter. She grew up in Idaho, graduated from Idaho State University and Northwestern University and frequents the trails around Boise as much as she can.