Fishing Bounties and Rewards Programs: How and Where You Can Get Paid to Catch Fish

As the saying goes, a bad day of fishing beats a good day at work or just about anything else. 

Fishers rarely need an excuse to get out on the water, but publicly-funded reward programs and fish bounties provide an extra cash incentive to cast lines around the United States. 

The reason for these rewards and bounties on fish is typically to help control an invasive fish population, or to help scientists and fish and wildlife managers to study a species and determine regulations more effectively. 

Participating in these programs helps conservation efforts and can help fund your hobby, two more reasons to get out there and catch more fish!

Check out the list below of fish species you can get paid to catch in certain locations, and tell us if you know of any more that we missed so we can keep adding to the list!

Location: Washington and Oregon, Lower Columbia River and the Snake River

Fish species: Northern Pikeminnow (above)

Purpose: Help save salmon by reducing the average size and the number of larger, older Northern Pikeminnow. Keeping the population of Northern Pikeminnow in check can help juvenile salmon and steelhead make it out to sea. This year’s season runs May 1, 2019 - September 30, 2019.

Reward: Fish #1 - 25 pays $5 per fish, #26 - 200 pays $6 per fish, 201 and up pays $8 per fish, and tagged fish are worth $500. Not only have results of the incentive program proven successful by reducing Northern Pikeminnow predation on juvenile salmonids by up to 40%, but anglers have made a lot of money too! In 2018, the top twenty anglers averaged reward bounties of $28,723 each for the season, and overall, anglers earned $1.4 million.

See more info:

Location: Lake Huron and the broader Great Lakes Region

Fish species: Walleye (above)

Purpose: To track the migration and movement of walleye.

Reward: $100 for a tagged fish. At the time of writing in March 2019, 214 of 493 tags have been recovered since the fish in the study were tagged in 2011 and 2012.

See more info: Your Next Walleye Catch Could Be Worth $100

Location: Gulf of Mexico / Gulf states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida

Fish species: Red Snapper (above)

Purpose: Help scientists estimate the red snapper population, in order for the season and quotas to be more effectively regulated.

Reward: Each tagged fish carries a $250 reward, with some fish tagged twice (for up to $500) in order to help scientists study how many of the tags fall out. The tags can be snipped off so the red snapper can be released, too.

See more info: Red snapper study to include $250 tags on fish

Location: Alabama's Gulf Coast

Fish species: Multiple saltwater species categories (see list)

Purpose: Support fishing and tourism from Alabama's beautiful Gulf Coast during off season months.

Dates: Saturday, April 20th, 2019 - Saturday, May 18th, 2019

Reward: Cash prizes ranging from $100 - $500 plus a grand prize truck drawing

See more info: 2019 Alabama Gulf Coast Slam Professional Fishing Tournament

Location: Florida

Fish species: Lionfish (above)

Purpose: Remove lionfish, a predatory and invasive species from Florida waters.

Reward: If you’re into spearfishing, harvest a tagged lionfish for a cash or product-based prize. Lionfish have increased rapidly since the mid-2000’s, so Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has put together a sophisticated approach through their yearly Lionfish Challenge. The program involves a tiered prize system, raffle, and recreational and commercial participation categories.

See more info: Lionfish Challenge 2019 & Reef Rangers

Location: Florida

Fish species: Bass (above)

Purpose: Help the FWC enhance, conserve and promote trophy bass fishing. Participating in TrophyCatch helps the FWC collect data through catch-and-release fishing.

Reward: Document your catches to make it into three club tiers (Lunker Club, Trophy Club, and Hall of Fame Club). You’ll win guaranteed prizes like gift cards and entry into drawings for big prizes like a Phoenix Bass Boat or a day of fishing with Lake Big Bass Professional Angler, Tim Fredericks, FLW Tour Champion.

See more info: TrophyCatch Florida

Location: South Dakota, Lower James River

Fish species: Catfish (above)

Purpose: Help South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks collect data on catfish to better manage regulations on catfish populations.

Reward: 10% of tags have a $100 reward, 60% have a $10 reward, and 30% have no monetary reward.

See more info: Lower James River Catfish Study

Location: Idaho, Lake Pend Oreille, the Pend Oreille River upstream of Albeni Falls Dam, and their tributaries

Fish species: Walleye aka yellow pike (above)

Purpose: Encourage anglers to catch and keep as many walleye as possible. Walleye are an invasive fish that, here, significantly affect native kokanee salmon and trout.

Reward: 50 tagged walleye come with a prize of $1,000.

See More Info: Idaho Offers $1000 Bounty for Invasive Fish; Fish and Game Offering $1000 for Anglers Who Catch Walleye in N. Idaho Lake 

Location: Idaho, South Fork of the Snake River

Fish species: Rainbow trout (above)

Purpose: Help control the population of rainbow trout, which are invasive here and increasing rapidly at the expense of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Reward: Tagged rainbows come with a range of rewards between $50 and $1,000.

See more info: Prize Money Being Offered to Help Thin South Fork Rainbow Trout Population

Looking for a fishing guide to help put you on fish in any of these areas? Search any location worldwide for fishing trips with guides, charters, and lodges on Fisher Guiding.