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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

January 17, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Not much change in poor Columbia River smelt returns

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Here is an update on smelt run forecasts in the Columbia River and tributaries from Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist:

2013 Outlook

The Joint Staff looks at various indicators of abundance. Positive abundance indicators for 2013 include:

1: Modest improvement in adult eulachon returns during 2008 (landings and CPUE).

2: A relatively high level of Age 1+ bycatch during 2009, and a relatively high level of Age 2+ bycatch during 2010 in the Canadian ocean shrimp fisheries.

3: Favorable ocean conditions during most of the ocean-phase for BY 2008-2010 fish, and anecdotal accounts of an increase in the numbers of older age class smelt bycatch in U.S. ocean shrimp fisheries in 2011.

Negative abundance indicates for 2013 include:

1: Low mainstem Columbia River larval densities during the winters of 2008 through 2010.

2: Decreasing adult smelt biomass tonnage in the 2010 -2012 Canadian ocean shrimp fisheries.

3: Warm ocean conditions during the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, and weak adult landings and CPUE for brood years 2008 through 2010.

The mixed bag of positive and negative indicators, does not readily point toward improving or declining returns in 2013. The 2013 return is likely to be somewhat similar to the past two years, given that indicators for the 2011 and 2012 returns were similar to those listed above.

The 2013 run is forecasted to be similar to 2011 and 2012.

Fisheries

Following the Endangered Species Act listing of Columbia River eulachon on May 17, 2010 both Oregon and Washington have enacted permanent rules prohibiting directed harvest of eulachon in recreational and commercial fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries.

Commercial fishing closed permanently effective December 1, 2010 and recreational fishing closed permanently effective January 1, 2011.

(Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times archive, and pictured are Cowlitz River bank anglers dipping for smelt before the closures.)

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