Smelt finally show up in the Cowlitz

  • By Wayne Kruse Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, March 5, 2014 8:44pm
  • Sports

Smelt by the bucketful nosed into the Cowlitz River from the Columbia on Friday, just in time for the last of a four-Saturday recreational dipnet fishery. The first three Saturdays were a bust, but the last one — March 1 — made up for the slow start.

“The dipnetters did very well last Saturday,” said state Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. “Some took limits (10 pounds) in a single dip.”

Because the limited success of the four-day season did not totally accomplish its purpose of providing data on the strength of the run, the state decided to allow one more day for recreationists to dip smelt (eulachon) on the Cowlitz. As a result, the fishery will be open from 6 a.m. to noon this Saturday.

Prior to last month, the recreational smelt fishery had been closed for three years after more than a decade of declining returns, and the species was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Since 2011, however, smelt runs coming back to the Columbia have shown significant improvement, said Guy Norman, the state’s southwest regional director.

Hymer said dipping was best in the lower end of the Cowlitz, but that fish were taken all the way up to Castle Rock.

Derby results

The Hot Plug’s Blackmouth Derby on Saturday in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 lured 84 participants out of the sack and into cold temperatures for some tough fishing. The fleet weighed in seven chinook, well under the 11 fish entered by 85 ticket holders last year. State personnel at the Port of Everett ramp Saturday checked 31 anglers in 14 boats with three chinook.

First place and $2,100 went to Zac Mackey for a blackmouth of 12.11 pounds, caught off Camano Head on a spoon. Second and $840 was taken by Gary Brossard at 11.09 pounds; third and $630 by Ron Lampers at 10.11 pounds, fishing bait; and fourth by Doug Schneider at 10.01 pounds, running flasher/squid at Onomac Point.

Last year’s winning chinook weighed 16.05 pounds.

Derby organizer Ed Keller said the event went pretty well.

“Success rates in the local area were fairly good three weeks ago,” he said, “then it dropped off before the derby. But that’s blackmouth fishing.”

Eagles derby

Another small, local event runs in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 on April 12-13 when the Stanwood Eagles tee it up for their 27th annual Blackmouth Fishing Derby. Tickets go on sale Saturday at $50 per head at the Eagles’, Ted’s Sport Center, Holiday Sports, John’s Sporting Goods, Camano Marine, and Elger Bay Store. Prizes are percentages of the total entry fees, with 5 percent donated to Eagles charities.

For more information, call Stanwood Eagles at 360-629-3224 or Ed Keller at 425-308-9437.

Cold trout

The March 1 early trout opener in the Columbia Basin was surprisingly successful, considering the weather conditions. Snow and a bone-chilling wind greeted a small numbers of anglers, according to state biologist Chad Jackson in Ephrata, but those who rode it out found trout.

Upper Caliche and Martha lakes put out three trout per person, and Burke Lake came in at two per person. Jackson noted, however, that counting only the anglers who handled the elements and fished for two or more hours, the averages increased to four-plus trout per rod

Quincy Lake was mostly iced-over, Jackson said.

Local blackmouth

All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein said better numbers of blackmouth are showing on Possession Bar the past few days; not hot, he said, but decent when the wind allows. Krein has been trolling the outer bar, over 125 to 150 feet of water, with a 3-inch Irish cream spoon, 38 to 40 inches behind a moon glow flasher. The last hour of the ebb tide has been the most productive period, he said.

State checks Sunday at Ediz Hook in Port Angeles showed 17 anglers with 14 chinook. At Washington Park in Anacortes, it was 16 with two fish.

Boldt decision

Those who are too young to have experienced the immediate effects of the Boldt fishing rights decision, or those who did and might want to refresh old memories, should check out The Reel News’ “remembrance” of the event, an informative package of two articles by writers who were there.

Go to and look for the link on the left-hand side of the home page.

The Reel News is a long-running tabloid with headquarters in Lake Stevens, specializing in fishing issues throughout the Northwest.

Waterfowl for Women

Washington Outdoor Women, an outdoor skills program that empowers women through classes that sharpen their outdoor talents and improve their wilderness know-how, offers its popular “Introduction to Waterfowling” from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on April 12 at a private hunt club near Monroe. Join WOW and head into the field for a hands-on introduction to waterfowling — its history, techniques, ethics and conservation efforts. Instructors will help with shotgun patterning and shooting moving clays, setting decoys, calling, the use of blinds, and understanding why a retriever is such an important partner in this hunting experience.

The event is designed for the beginner/novice, and open to those 18 and older. The fee of $100 includes expert instruction, equipment, shotguns and ammunition, clays, a hot breakfast and a hearty lunch, and a WOW t-shirt.

For information or to register visit or call 425-455-1986 or 206-849-9691.

Washington Outdoor Women is an educational program of the Washington Wildlife Federation.

For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at

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