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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

February 13, 2015 at 10:08 AM

Smelt dip-net mania expected Saturday on the Cowlitz River, and more planned on Oregon’s Sandy River

smeltFor those planning on making the trek south to the Cowlitz River for smelt will like the latest news.

Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist said the commercial catches on Monday picked up and were fishing from the Cowlitz downstream. Their schedule is Mondays and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day through this month.

That likely means more smelt are pushing up into the Cowlitz from the Lower Columbia mainstem, and should offer excellent sport dip-net opportunities when it reopens for one final time this Saturday (Feb. 14) from 6 a.m. until noon.

State fisheries managers were expecting another strong run to the Columbia River although not quite as large as last year’s return of close to 200-million smelt.

Smelt dipping was very good last Saturday, and limits were generally the rule from Lexington’s Riverside Park to Castle Rock, and clear downstream to the mouth. About 20 to 30 percent of the catch was female smelt, and most were nice in size.

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.

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. 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.

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

If you don’t get a chance this Saturday another option is to make plans to dip-net the Sandy River on the Oregon side of the Columbia, which will be open for smelt March 7 and March 15 from 6 a.m. to noon each day. Only bank fishing is allowed with a 10 pound per person daily limit, and no license required.

 

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