State Fish and Wildlife will host a public meeting Wednesday, Jan. 6 in Kelso to discuss state of smelt fisheries in the Cowlitz River and other tributaries of the Columbia River.
The meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. on the third floor of the Cowlitz County Administration Building at 207 4th Ave. N. in Kelso.
Fishery managers are predicting another year of low smelt returns. In addition, NOAA Fisheries has proposed listing the species as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). A final decision on the proposed listing is expected in March.
“Fishery managers are thinking long and hard about what kind of smelt fishery – if any – makes sense in light of the proposed ESA listing,” Bill Tweit, a state Fish and Wildlife Columbia River policy leader said in a news release. “Before we begin making those decisions, we’d like to hear what the public has to say.”
Fisheries managers this month announced smelt fisheries for the Columbia River mainstem, which will be open daily starting Jan. 1 with a daily limit of 10 pounds (down from 25 pounds in years past). Sport dip-netters in the mainstem are known to catch very few fish.
The ongoing commercial fishery will be restricted to Mondays and Thursdays starting Jan. 1 through March 31.
Columbia River smelt are part of a designated West Coast population that extends from the Mad River in northern California to northern British Columbia. A scientific review by NOAA Fisheries found that this stock is declining throughout its range, mostly due to changes in ocean conditions.