In Washington state, one-day smelt season a bust

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

LONGVIEW, Wash. — Washington state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife opened up a highly anticipated one-day season for smelt fishing on the lower Cowlitz River — but maybe no one told the smelt.

Thousands of people turned out with dip-nets in hand Saturday morning, but when the five-hour season ended, most everyone went home with empty buckets. The Columbian newspaper reports that at most locations checked, the catch was zero. The top dipper at one boat ramp had a whopping two smelt.

The small, silvery fish were listed as threatened in 2010. Saturday’s short season was intended to serve as research fishery, but also to keep a minimal connection between the public and once-plentiful species.

The limit was 10 pounds per person, which is about a quarter of a five-gallon bucket.

The decision to open the season came after officials tracked catch rates in a commercial test fishery in the lower Columbia. Landings averaged 281 pounds per commercial fisherman last week.

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