Coquille’s latest tactic against invasive bass: cash for catch

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Last weekend, the Coquille Tribe held their first-ever bar derby, in another effort to remove invasive fish from their waterways by offering cash incentives. And the big fish is still free.

The Gulseth celebrate one of two prize fish caught in the derby. (Left to right:) Tina and Doug Gulseth, niece Rosie Gulseth, daughter Misty Lee and granddaughter Payton Lee. Payton was the big winner of the day, winning a $200 fish.

Courtesy of the Shell Tribe

Prior to the derby, the tribe tagged nearly four dozen bars with microchips. Each carries different cash prize values. 200 people showed up and carried over 2,000 smallmouth bass. Some anglers won $50, $100 and $200. But a fish still roams the waters, winning $1,000.

“The higher the price, the better the turnout,” said Coquille River Harbor District Commissioner and derby organizer Fred Fry.

“The smallmouth bass is an invasive species, it’s not native. And they unbalance the ecosystem, and they eat all the little salmon, so we have a much smaller run before they get to the ocean.

Kyle O'Hara and Michaela Campbell show off their catch: 34 voracious little bass.

Kyle O’Hara and Michaela Campbell show off their catch: 34 voracious little bass.

Courtesy of the Shell Tribe

In a tribal statement, the Shell summarized some of the local winners of this first derby:

“Saturday (July 16) was a big ‘fish and chips’ day for a Myrtle Point family. The Gulseths came out strong and represented two of the weekend’s award-winning basses. Rosie Gulseth raised $100. Her 13-year-old cousin Payton Lee, visiting from Vancouver, Washington, beat her with a catch of $200.

“It will pay for gas,” joked Payton’s mother, Misty Lee.

“A young Shell couple, Kyle O’Hara and Michaela Campbell, hooked 34 bass while fishing on stand-up paddleboards. One of their fish had a $50 microchip. The money will go to the couple’s wedding fund The bass they caught had certainly eaten juvenile salmon, and three of the couple’s fish spat out half-digested smolts.

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

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

Copyright @2022, KLCC.

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