Another dismal Columbia RIver smelt return has prompted state Fish and Wildlife to reduce the Cowlitz River sport dip-net fishery to a mere four days.
“This fishery is primarily intended to provide information on the size of this year’s smelt run and to avoid significant impacts on the population,” Brad James, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist said in a news release.
Sport smelt dip-netting in the Cowlitz River will be open Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day with a 10-pound daily limit.
The small commercial fishery in the river will also be limited to Sundays and Mondays for three hours each day from Feb. 3-28.
Fishery managers have delayed smelt fishing on the Cowlitz River since Jan. 1 to determine how much fishing – if any – to allow.
Smelt returns are expected to increase slightly from last year, but the entire population from northern California to northern British Columbia has been depressed since 2005.
Pacific smelt are a food source for larger predators, such as salmon, marine mammals and seabirds. NOAA Fisheries has proposed listing the species as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and is expected to announce its decision this year.