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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

February 26, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Cowlitz River smelt dip-net fishery reopens Saturday, and might be good if the fish arrive

KAARTINEN GRASSMANIf you’ve got a hankering for Cowlitz River smelt, then this Saturday just might be the first time in a few years where sport bank dip-netters will get a chance to scoop up some of these oily migrating fish.

“We did get some landings on the commercial fishery in the Wakiakum County area of the Lower Columbia,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “Water temperatures in the Lower Columbia and Cowlitz look good for smelt migration, but there was no sign of smelt in the Cowlizt yet.”

Water temperatures have been running above 40 degrees this past week in both the mainstem Columbia River and the Cowlitz River.

State Fish and Wildlife says the thermal block hindering movement of eulachon smelt out of the Columbia River estuary, present for much of February, appears to be over.

Harbor seals and sea lions have been observed this week feeding as far upstream as County Line Park (Road Marker 50). No sign of smelt has been observed yet in the Cowlitz River.

Cowlitz River flow at Castle Rock is 13,000 cubic feet per second, about average for this time of year.

The presence of smelt within 15 to 20 miles of the Cowlitz River at the start of the week means it is possible fish will be in the Cowlitz by this Saturday.

Overall, the sport fishing prospects for this coming Saturday looks fair to good. Smelt dip-netting will be open from 6 a.m. to noon. The daily limit is 10 pounds of smelt.

This Saturday (March 1) will be the first chance for sport dip-netters in Oregon’s Sandy River.  Sport dip-netting will also be open in the Sandy on March 8, 15 and 22.

The mainstem Columbia River has been open to commercial fishing for smelt Mondays and Thursdays since Feb. 10, with Thursday (March 6) the final day scheduled.

The commercial fleet landed the following:  Nothing on Feb. 10 and Feb. 13; 3 pounds on Feb. 17; 155 pounds on Feb. 20; and 8,867 pounds on Feb. 24. The catch came from the vicinity of Puget Island (Road Marker 45) and further downstream.

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