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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

February 12, 2010 at 10:54 AM

Smelt still pretty much a no show in the Cowlitz River

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If you planned on making the drive down south on Saturday (Feb. 13) in search of smelt on the Lower Cowlitz River, take into consideration that it could turn into a total flop.

This fresh report came via e-mail from state Fish and Wildlife Joe Hymer on Friday (Feb. 12) morning.

Hymer reported there was no reported smelt catch from the first three commercial fishery periods (Feb. 3, 7 and 10) or the first sport dip-net opener last Saturday (Feb. 6) in the Cowlitz River.

Flows at Castle Rock are currently 8,750 cubic feet per second, which is less than the long term mean of 12,600 cfs for this date. However, flows are expected to increase to 13,000 cfs over the weekend. Last Saturday water temperatures were in the mid-40 degree range.

Sport dipping on the Cowlitz River is open only on Saturdays Feb. 13, 20 and 27 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Daily and possession limit 10 pounds per person. All other Washington Columbia River tributaries remain closed to fishing for smelt.

In the Columbia River mainstem, Hymer says commercial smelt fishermen have landed a total of about 3,402 lbs so far during 2010 with the bulk of the landings coming from Thursday (Jan. 21 with just over 2,000 pounds). Since then success has dropped.

Smelt abundance has declined during the last three weeks with a total of about 445 pounds landed during Jan. 25 and Jan. 28 fishing periods; about 108 pounds reported during the Feb. 1 and Feb. 4 fishing periods; and nothing reported during this past week during the Feb. 8 and Feb. 11 fishing periods.

A few birds and seals were observed at County Line Park in Longview Thursday (Feb. 11). Conditions for smelt migration are just right with water temps in the low 40 degree range.

Smelt dipping in the Columbia mainstem from the mouth to Bonneville Dam is open daily through March 31. Daily and possession limit 10 pounds per person.

(Photo taken by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff photographer)

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