CLACKAMAS (ODFW) – After a three-year hiatus, smelt fishing is returning to the Columbia River and two of its tributaries.
In a joint state hearing, the departments of fish and wildlife from Oregon and Washington approved very limited commercial and recreational smelt fisheries.
Those fisheries are located on the Columbia, Cowlitz and Sandy rivers for the first time since the fish was listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2010.
Collectively, these fisheries are expected to harvest less than 1 percent of adults returning to the Columbia this year.
Adult returns have shown significant improvement in recent years and the return in 2014 is expected to be strong.
These fisheries will allow the states to obtain more current information about the smelt population and help managers better understand trends and variability in abundance.
Though smelt are still listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, NOAA Fisheries supports research-based fisheries in strong return years.
Commercial smelt fishing will be permitted for 8 days on the Columbia, on Mondays and Thursdays, Feb. 10 – March 6, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fishing is restricted to 2” gillnets in Zones 1-3 only.
The ODFW announced smelt fishing is open on the Sandy River on Saturdays only March 1 - March 22 from 6 a.m. to noon.
Fishing will be restricted to dip nets from the bank with a bag limit of 10 pounds per angler per day, with no more than one day’s limit in possession.
The state of Washington announced similar rules for the Cowlitz, which will be open on Saturdays from Feb. 8 – March 1, 6 a.m. to noon.
Spring bear hunt applications due Feb. 10
Apply for a controlled hunt no later than Feb. 10, or purchase one of the SW Oregon first-come, first-serve tags, which have been selling out by about Feb. 15 every year.
Don’t overlook winter trout fishing
Oregon offers diverse winter trout fishing opportunities -- Garrison Lake and Lost Creek Reservoir in the SW Zone, Crooked and Metolius rivers in Central, Walter Wirth Lake in the Willamette and ice-fishing on Campbell Lake and Wolf Creek Reservoir in SE, to name a few. Check out the zone reports for even more winter trout opportunities.
A large amount of hunters reported tags
About 81 percent of 2013 deer and elk tags were reported by the deadline last week.
Not too early to think spring Chinook
Managers are expecting a good return in the Columbia River this year – 227,000 upriver fish and 58,700 fish to the Willamette.
Even with the weather, anglers can expect some good fishing if the fish and water conditions cooperate.