December 27, 2000
Contact: John DeVore, (360) 906-6710
Sport smelt season opens Jan. 6 for Cowlitz River
OLYMPIA – Sport dip-net smelt fishing will open at 6 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 6, on the Cowlitz River, with new restrictions on days and hours and a continued lower daily bag limit, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced.
All other Columbia River tributaries are closed to smelt fishing.
WDFW biologists are continuing to monitor the fishery because of poor smelt runs the past several years. They remind fishers to be aware of several changes made to the season to help rebuild smelt stocks:
- The season is open Saturdays only, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Traditionally, the fishery was open Friday and Saturday, 24 hours a day.
- The daily bag limit is 10 pounds per person – approximately 1/4 of a five-gallon bucket, or about 160 fish. The daily bag limit was reduced from 20 pounds to 10 pounds in 1998, when low abundance caused a season closure.
- The season is tentatively scheduled to run through March, but fishers should call the smelt hotline, (360) 696-6211 and punch *1010, to check for any changes in regulations or emergency closures.
The decline in smelt runs is thought to be due to warm El Nino currents in the Pacific Ocean in past years. Ocean temperatures more recently have been cooling, and WDFW biologists hope the smelt runs will continue the rebound observed last year. Biologists have noted that chinook and coho salmon as well as anchovy runs to the Columbia have been improving. These run increases are indications that more food is available in the ocean as cooler currents prevail.
Because there are many private homes in the area of the fishery, fishers are reminded they must obtain permission from private property owners to park or otherwise gain access to the fishery over any private property.