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.
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.
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