January 9th, 2005

No report of any catches other than a handful caught by a couple commercial fishers in the mainstem Columbia earlier in the season. At Bonneville Dam yesterday, the river was a cool 40.5 degrees.


January 13th, 2005

Oak Harbor Marina: Fair to good smelt jigging.

No reports of smelt caught other than a handful caught by commercial fishers in the Columbia mainstem.

Smelt: Lower rivers and less freshwater influx into coastal areas have apparently been the catalyst to improve what had been a generally slow winter smelt jigging season. Bob Ferber at Holiday Market Sports in Burlington (360-757-4361) said jigging has definitely picked up at times for those working Cornet Bay, the Oak Harbor marina, and even the La Conner docks.

Pacific smelt runs in the Cowlitz and other lower Columbia River tributaries are not expected to be strong this year, but commercial netters on the big river have taken a few already. Over the past 10 years, the smelt usually have shown up in early to mid-February. Two years ago the run was strong, and last year state biologists predicted a big run, but it failed to materialize.

This year the outlook is for a weak run, and the state has set conservative regulations. Sport smelt fishing will be allowed Tuesdays and Saturdays only from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the Cowlitz, Grays, Kalama and Lewis rivers, with a limit of 10 pounds per person. In the main Columbia, which is not fished regularly by sport dippers, the season is open seven days per week with a 25-pound limit. River smelt are taken in long-handled dip nets swept downstream with the current.

Meantime, jigging for surf smelt has been good recently, off and on, at the Oak Harbor yacht basin on Whidbey Island and the fishing pier at Cornet Bay to the north. Surf smelt are taken by rod and reel anglers using small, multi-hooked jigs. That fishery is open daily with a 10-pound limit.



Commercial fishers caught 25 smelt at Mill Creek near Longview on Jan. 25, and another commercial smelter netted 12 pounds at Cathlamet last week.



Smelt: Oak Harbor Marina has been producing smelt on the last hour of the slack tide. There have been no reports of smelt running in the lower Columbia River.



Joe Hymer, Vancouver-based fish biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, said lots of seals and sea lions are in the Columbia River from Cathlamet to Astoria. A commercial fisherman landed 43 pounds of smelt last week. No smelt have been reported in the Cowlitz River.



Smelt: Jigging has been very good in Oak Harbor. A few reports of fish being taken in the lower Columbia River, but none in the Cowlitz River.



Smelt: Oak Harbor and Coronet Bay has been the best choices for smelt dipping.



The smelt run continues to be somewhere over the horizon with no commercial catches in Washington tributaries.



Smelt: Coronet Bay, Oak Harbor and La Connor have been the best spots.



Smelt: The Cowlitz River run is apparently not going to show this year, so the state has cut the number of legal days from two to one, just in case, Saturdays only. No smelt activity has been noted recently in either the Cowlitz or Columbia.

These days, there are smelt jigging opportunities at the three usual places - Oak Harbor, Cornet Bay, and La Conner - with the Oak Harbor Marina the best bet. Be there for the incoming tide, high slack, and an hour of the ebb.



The smelt run has not shown up, and emergency rules are limiting fishing. Smelt dipping now is allowed only Saturdays in the Cowlitz River. No dipping is allowed in the Lewis, Kalama and Grays rivers. The Columbia River remains open to smelt dipping every day.



Smelt finally made a showing in the lower Columbia River last weekend. Boat anglers netted some limits near Kelso, but dipping from the bank was slow. Anglers reported low, clear water. That meant that catching anything was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Anglers said it appeared that smelt were moving into the river during high tides.
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