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Thursday, December 29, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


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Fishing Notes: Poor smelt return expected

Seattle Times staff reporter

State Fish and Wildlife biologists are bracing for another poor smelt run in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

"Every indication points to another poor smelt return this year," said Brad James, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. "But we'll be watching the run closely, and will modify the season [if] it turns out to be stronger than expected."

The entire Lower Columbia River mainstem will be open daily for sport smelt dipping beginning Sunday through March 31.

Fishery managers are not overly concerned about a seven-day-per-week season on the lower river, where a lack of bank access limits fishing pressure. Sport fishers can dip up to 25 pounds of smelt per day during the season.

However, the popular sport smelt dipping in the Cowlitz River will be open on Saturdays only from Jan. 7 through March 31 (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.). The daily limit will be 10 pounds per fisher.

Last February, state Fish and Wildlife reduced the number of days open to smelt fishing on the Cowlitz River from two to one when the run came in much weaker than expected.

"We're hoping we can do it the other way around during the upcoming season, but the outlook is not good," James said.

All other Columbia River tributaries, including the Lewis, Kalama, Sandy, Elochoman and Grays rivers, will remain closed to smelt fishing until further notice.

The pilot run of smelt usually returns to the Columbia mainstem around mid-January, with the peak abundance occurring in February. Smelt begin entering tributaries by late January through early March, and as late as April.

Smelt are very sensitive to variations in water temperature, with temperatures of less than 40 degrees often stopping their migration upstream.

New TV show

The new fishing show "Wanna Go Fishing?" debuts at 4:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPN2, and features Dan Bugge of Seattle, who also works at the Pike Place Fish Market.

The format of the show is this: Someone gets a once-in-a-lifetime, on-the-spot opportunity to travel on a saltwater-fishing adventure.

Watch as Bugge, who dropped everything he was doing, including his job, on Aug. 25 to spend two days in Alaska fly-fishing for salmon and trout on the Situk River in the Tongass National Forest and deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Alaska.

Top spots of the week

1. Steelhead in Western Washington rivers: "There was about 50 or 60 fish caught at Reiter Pond [on Tuesday in the Skykomish River]," said Bryan Nelson at Three Rivers Marine and Tackle in Woodinville. "The terminal fishery at Tokul Creek on the Snoqualmie was also giving up some fish. It is also time for the North Fork of the Stilly [Stillaguamish] around Fortson to kick out some fish."

Once the main bodies of rivers drop back into fishing shape, look for fresh steelhead in Snohomish, Green, Skagit, Cascade and Puyallup.

Steelhead fishing in the saltwater area off west Whidbey Island has been mostly hit and miss at Bush Point, Lagoon Point and Fort Casey.

On the coast and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, heavy rainfall continues to put a damper on steelhead fishing.

"Everything is out of fishing shape on the coast, and the Calawah [River's] water level is up to the trees," Nelson said.

Once the water level drops, and it might be a while on some, try the Bogachiel, Calawah, Soleduck, Hoh (may take a much longer than others to be fishable), Wynoochee, Sooes, Humptulips, Queets, Naselle, Lower Quinault (tribal-guided only), Elwha, Lyre, Pysht, Naselle, Willapa and Satsop.

In southwest Washington, steelhead fishing has been slow to fair in the Cowlitz, Grays, Elochoman, Washougal, Kalama (best producer this season) and Lewis.

2. Razor clams off coastal beaches: Stormy weather and high surf might play into how good digging will be. Digging will be open noon to midnight each day Friday through Sunday at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch beaches. Twin Harbors and Mocrocks will also be open Monday. Low tides: Friday, minus-0.8 feet at 6:07 p.m.; Saturday, -1.1 at 6:54 p.m.; Sunday, -1.2 at 7:38 p.m.; and Monday, -0.9 at 8:22 p.m.

3. Squid in Elliott Bay and Puget Sound: "Pier 86 [near the grain terminal on Elliott Bay] is one of the better bets," said Jerry Beppu, owner of Linc's Tackle Shop in Seattle. "I had a guy who fished the Edmonds pier and said he was picking up some squid, and the Des Moines and Les Davis piers should be OK, too."

Beppu also got good reports from the piers in the Bremerton area, and noted that squid jigging should remain good everywhere through next month.

4. Crab in Puget Sound and Hood Canal: The season is heading into the stretch, but catches remain OK. Hood Canal, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, Admiralty Inlet, Central Sound and southcentral Sound are open daily through Monday. Neah Bay, Sekiu and southern Puget Sound are open daily through Feb. 28 unless the catch reaches state-harvest share before then.

5. Salmon in Puget Sound and Hood Canal: "Blackmouth fishing has been almost non-existent because of the weather, but last week it was OK in Saratoga Passage, Baby Island and Fox's Spit," said Mike Chamberlain at Ted's Sports Center in Lynnwood.

Other places worth a peek are Kingston, Elger Bay, Holmes Harbor, Seabeck area in Hood Canal (closes after Saturday), Langley area, Jefferson Head, Allen Bank off Blake Island, Southworth and Manchester. Fishing is slow in the Tacoma area (closes after Saturday) and in the southern Puget Sound off Gibson Point, Anderson Island and Ketron Island.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company




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