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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

February 9, 2015 at 12:33 PM

Excellent smelt dipping on Saturday in the Cowlitz River, and one more opener scheduled this weekend

smelt

(Photo taken during the 2001 Cowlitz River fishery by Seattle Times staff photographer Mark Harrison.)

The word that Columbia River smelt were in dire straits prior to 2010 seems like a distant nightmare especially when it was taking many sport dip-netters a matter of minutes to pull in their limits of the small silvery fish this past Saturday.

Last Saturday morning, limits were the general rule on the Cowlitz River from Castle Rock downstream to the mouth, according to a state Fish and Wildlife report as well as those gushing on on-line fishing forums.

“Yes the smelt dipping was good and in some cases it was too easy,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “I would say limits were the rule, and a couple dip limits were possible. There were quite a few people out on the river.”

Hymer noted that 20 to 30 percent of what they saw in the catch was females, and most of the fish were nice-sized, bright fish and the males were unspawned.

Cowlitz River flows at Castle Rock are currently 16,900 cubic feet per second down from the 25,000 cfs observed Sunday morning and a bit lower than the flows observed during last Saturday’s fishery.

“We had a bunch of rain, and logs going downriver, and sometimes the dirty or cold water can push them smelt out of the river,” Hymer said.

Hymer said the smelt weren’t that close into shore, but you didn’t need waders to get to catch them, and longer handled dip-nets worked better than the shorter handle ones.

The last scheduled chance to dip-net on the Cowlitz River is Saturday (Feb. 14) from 6:00 a.m. until noon.

Dip net gear may be used from the bank only. The daily limit is 10 pounds or about a quarter of a five gallon bucket. Possession limit is equal to one daily limit. No fishing license is required to dip-net for smelt.

This is the second year in row that some type of smelt fishing has been allowed since 2010 when the small fish was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Fisheries managers are expecting another strong return in 2015 to the Columbia River, but not quite as large as last year return of close to 200-million smelt.

Oregon fisheries also plans to open the Sandy River for smelt in early to mid-March.

Last year, sport dip-netters hauled in 198,000 pounds of smelt on the Cowlitz during a two-day fishery in early March.

 

 

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