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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

February 5, 2010 at 10:04 AM

Cowlitz River smelt dip net fishery opener is Saturday

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Here is yet another update before Saturday’s (Feb. 6) first chance to sport dip-net smelt in the Cowlitz River.

This came fresh off the desk of Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in Vancouver:

Smelt were observed at Gerhart Gardens (lower river) last Friday (Jan. 29).

We did not receive any reports of catch from the Cowlitz River commercial smelt fishery open last Wednesday night (Feb. 3). Flows on the Cowlitz at Castle Rock are currently 9,600 cfs, which is below the long term mean of 12,600 cfs.

On the Cowlitz River, sport dipping open only Saturdays Feb. 6, 13, 20, and 27 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Daily and possession limit 10 pounds per person.

Mainstem Columbia: We do not have not any reported commercial landings of smelt so far this month.

During yesterday’s sport effort flight count there were a few seals and birds working the Columbia with the heaviest activity at Coffee Pot (Cathlamet) and Brookfield and smaller numbers at Oak Point (Longview) and the mouth of the Cowlitz.

As of Jan. 29, conditions were just right for smelt migration with water temps in the lower river being at/or just over 41 F.

On the mainstem Columbia, sport dipping is open daily through March 31. Daily and possession limit 10 pounds per person.

All other Washington Columbia River tributaries are closed to smelt fishing.

This year’s smelt return to the Columbia River is expected to be poor, but somewhat better than in past years.

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If you don’t want to make the long drive south, there are some smelt to be had locally at Oak Harbor Marina and Cornet Bay Pier on North Whidbey Island. Both have been fairly consistent for a couple of weeks, and I would advise you to go now rather than later. Drop your jigs on a flood tide for best results.

(Photos taken by Mark Harrison and Pedro Perez, Seattle Times staff photographers)

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