Cowlitz smelt dippers are going home happy

  • Wayne Kruse / Outdoor Writer
  • Wednesday, January 23, 2002 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

There are several fisheries in the Evergreen State which have become family classics over the years – events anticipated, and planned for, each new season as a traditional outing. One is razor clam digging on the coastal beaches. Another would be opening day of trout season.

And a third – smelt dipping – is underway now on the Cowlitz River.

“It’s been good. There are a lot of smelt around,” says Don Enfield at Carnival Market in Kelso (360-425-6622). “Within two or three days, they should be all the way up to Castle Rock.”

Joe Hymer, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist in Vancouver, said 1-3 pounds per dip hasn’t been an unusual average the past few days, and that many recreational dippers are taking 10-pound limits in less than a half-hour. The fishery is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and no license is required.

Enfield says the bulk of the catch now is composed of males, with the larger females yet to come. “That means we still have a lot of the run left,” he says.

Enfield rents the long-handled dip nets for $3 per hour, with a damage deposit of a valid driver’s license or $40. There’s a good stretch of public riverfront right across the road from his store.

Steelhead: Guide and Marysville resident Tom Nelson ( said the North Fork Stillaguamish was probably the pick of the steelheading litter over the weekend, putting out a nice mix of hatchery and native fish, particularly around Hazel and C-Post. The Skagit has been tough recently for anglers working the usually productive Rockport area (remember that the concrete ramp on the north bank is unusable), but Nelson looks for that to change most any time as natives work their way higher up the river.

The Skykomish remains so-so, almost entirely on the strength of native fish now, and the Pilchuck and Wallace would be good bets if the Snohomish system stays high and borderline fishable.

The southwest rivers, particularly the Cowlitz, are still hot. Checks at Blue Creek over the weekend showed Cowlitz bank anglers averaging better than a fish per rod, even though some of the fish are darkening, and some are “recycled” via tank truck. The checks tallied 145 fish for 134 anglers.

Anglers on the Lewis and Kalama also continue to do well. Lewis checks last weekend showed 19 bank anglers with nine fish, and eight boaters with two.

Columbia Basin trout: The March 1 opener of many of the “seep lakes” below Potholes Reservoir should be a good one this year, according to Mike Meseberg at MarDon Resort. The mild winter should have allowed for maximum growth of fry planted early last year, and there should be plenty of insect life. Remember, however, that Warden Lake changed from the early opener format to regular April-October season regulations.

The date for the resort’s very popular net-pen release still hasn’t been nailed down, but it will be sometime in April and will be posted on their Web site ( or available by phone, 509-765-5061. Some 160,000 rainbow, which have been raised and fed cooperatively by the state and the resort, are released each spring, and great fishing from the resort’s pier – especially for kids and family groups – is the result.

Meseberg said the trout have had excellent growing conditions this winter, and will be larger than usual.

New book: For years I subscribed to a local fishing/hunting tabloid for a number of reasons, the most important of which was simply to use it as a calendar. To remind myself that it was time to start planning that trip to Stevenson for shad, or Vernita for upriver bright chinook, or the Satsop for coho.

It worked well, but now Chris Paulson has come up with something better. His new booklet, Fishing Calendar For The State Of Washington, has 96 pages of great fishing, laid out in a chronological January through December format. The description of each fishery is short, but includes enough where-to, how-to information to get you started.

The booklet includes Web sites and phone numbers, kids activities, outdoor shows, derbies and tournaments, and other stuff. But it’s the “where-do-I-go-to-catch-local-sturgeon-in-February” material that’s the core of the publication.

Look for it at $7.50 plus tax at tackle shops, or send a check for $9 to Mostly Northwest, P.O. Box 1615, Edmonds, WA 98020.

Women’s shooting clinic: Washington Outdoor Women offers its first clinic of the year, a shotgun skills workshop, Feb. 9, 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the Renton Fish and Game Club range. The $65 fee includes lunch and a T-shirt, and all equipment and supplies are provided by WOW. Must be 18 or older. Call Julie O’Neil at 425-451-3711, or e-mail

The group’s traditional weekend workshop, a sellout every year, is scheduled this year for Sept. 20-22 at Camp Waskowitz near North Bend. For information about the weekend, or any of the group’s activities, write Washington Outdoor Women, P.O. Box 1656, Bellevue, WA 98009; or go to

B.C. fish: The new, 2002, B.C. Saltwater Fishing Planning Guide is now available, by calling 1-800-435-5622, or by visiting the Sport Fishing Institute Web site,

Tom Bird, the personable director of the B.C. Sport Fishing Institute, will be hosting a booth at the Puyallup outdoor show, available to answer any questions concerning fishing in the province. As ex-federal fisheries director for the B.C. coast, Bird knows all there is to know, including some of the smaller, exciting fisheries, such as chums on a fly, not far from Nanaimo.

The booth will feature a virtual fishing simulator which will allow visitors to “catch” a big chinook.

Show: And speaking of the Washington Sportsmen’s Show at the Puyallup fairgrounds, it runs through Sunday at $8 for adults, $5 for juniors 6-16, and free for kids under 6. Hours are 1-9 p.m. today, 1-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Parking is free.

Sea perch: Anglers on the Edmonds fishing pier are doing well on pile perch. Checks there Sunday showed seven anglers with 19 fish.

Launch closed: The old rail-launch at Point No Point, which has provided boat access to Admiralty Inlet since the 1920s, has been closed for safety reasons, according to its current owner/operator, the state Fish and Wildlife Department. WDFW spokesman Pete Dietrichson said “Our engineers have advised us that it just is no longer safe to operate in its present condition.”

Whether the launch can be restored or replaced, and at what cost, remains to be seen, Dietrichson said.

The launch has traditionally opened in late winter or early spring, and has been used by hundreds of anglers and recreational boaters annually. The nearest launch now is the Eglon facility, maintained by Kitsap County, four miles south of Point No Point, Dietrichson said.

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