OLYMPIA – Starting Jan. 3, the Cowlitz River will be open to smelt dipping from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each Saturday through March 28, under rules adopted by Washington fishery managers. Like last year, the daily catch limit will be 10 pounds per person
All other tributaries to the Columbia River in Washington state will remain closed to smelt fishing until further notice.
As during the past three seasons, most indicators point to another year of poor smelt returns to rivers in the Pacific Northwest, said Brad James, fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
But that trend could change this year if ocean conditions continue to show improvement, he said.
“Smelt populations tend to be highly variable, so need to take a conservative approach to setting fishing seasons,” James said. “We’ll be watching the run closely, and will consider modifying the season if it turns out to be especially higher or lower than expected.”
James said fishing seasons are laid out in the management plan for smelt developed by Washington and Oregon in 2001. Both states will review the run in mid-February to consider any changes in the 2009 season.