Port of Coquille River release – MYRTLE POINT – Invasive bass that feast on the Coquille River’s dwindling salmon population are about to have the tables turned. Anglers can win $10,000 in prizes for catching the tasty fish July 16 and 17, in a bass derby organized by the Port of Coquille River. Prizes will go to participants who reel in selected bass that have been tagged with microchips. For port officials, the biggest prize will be a reduction of unwelcome predators in the river. “We’re not going to get rid of all of them,” said Port Commission member Fred Fry. “But if we can just mobilize enough fishing poles, we can make a real dent.” With help from sponsors, the Port Commission is offering 46 prizes, ranging from $50 to $1,000, for anglers who catch the tagged bass. Each participant’s $20 entry fee will go into a prize fund for future derbies. The second event is already scheduled Sept. 3 and 4, and the port plans more derbies in the years ahead. “Hopefully it’ll just build on itself,” Fry said. The July derby takes place from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 16, and 6 a.m. to noon Sunday, July 17. Anglers should take their fish to the port district office at 170 River Road, Myrtle Point, to have them scanned for microchips. Fry said the derby idea was inspired by recent efforts to halt the decline of fall Chinook salmon in the Coquille River system. A key reason for the decline is the illegal introduction of non-native bass, which are voracious consumers of juvenile salmon. Although bass tournaments commonly are catch-and-release events, the port’s derbies are anything but. Once the fish have been checked for prizewinning microchips, anglers are encouraged to take them home for dinner. “They’re good-eating fish,” Fry said. The state of Oregon sets no size or bag limits on Coquille River bass. Anglers are free to catch all they want. “They’ve just taken over the Coquille River system,” Fry said. More information on the July derby is available on the port’s website, www.thepocrd.com. Sponsors of the July derby include the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Coquille Indian Tribe, Roseburg Forest Products, Timberline Taxidermy, 3J Ranches and Spruce Street Bar and Grill. The port welcomes additional sponsors to donate cash or merchandise for future events. Potential sponsors should contact Fry at 360-721-4513 or Beth Spencer at 541-572-2737.