Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Aug. 4, 2020

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Out & About: One day Cowlitz River smelt dip set for Friday, Feb. 14

By , Columbian staff writer

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has approved a limited-opening recreational smelt dip of one day for Valentine’s Day, Friday, Feb. 14. One section of the Cowlitz River will open to recreational dip netting along the bank from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The open stretch of the river is from the Highway 432 Bridge upstream to the Al Helenberg Memorial Boat ramp just upstream from the Highway 411/A Street Bridge in Castle Rock.

This is the first recreational smelt season since 2017.

When commercial test fisheries show that runs are strong enough, the state opens a recreational fishery. The seasons are set by NOAA Fisheries.

Columbia River smelt are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“We work closely with NOAA to take a precautionary approach to any fisheries involving an ESA-listed species,” said Laura Heironimus, WDFW’s Columbia River smelt, sturgeon, and lamprey lead in a news release. “Initial indicators suggest this run is strong enough to offer this limited opportunity while still allowing us to meet our conservation goals and help the population rebuild.”

Each dip-netter may keep 10 pounds of smelt Friday and may have only that day’s limit in possession. Ten pounds comes to about one quarter of a five-gallon bucket.

No fishing license is required to dip net for smelt in this limited fishery.

River levels and flows may still be very strong, so dip-netters must use caution.

Law enforcement will be present to ensure safety and monitor rules compliance.

Gifford Pinchot: Forest Road 59 closed

Forest Road 59, which travels north from Highway 706 along the west side of Mount Rainier National Park, has been closed by the Forest Service as of Feb. 6.

Several severe washouts caused by recent heavy rains have made the road impassable. Travelers should avoid this road until further notice.

Big razor clam population brings more opportunities

State shellfish managers have tentatively scheduled razor clam digs on ocean beaches through April.

While final approval for the digs rests on marine toxin tests, the scheduled digs show that Washington beaches still have plenty of clams.

“We have lots of razor clams on area beaches this year, and we’re releasing a tentative schedule to give people plenty of time to make plans to get out and enjoy them,” said Dan Ayres, the WDFW coastal shellfish manager in a news release.

The department typically announces whether a dig will go forward about a week before the opening.

The earliest tentative razor clam digs, along with low tides and beaches, are listed below.

• March 6, Friday, 4:11 p.m., -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• March 7, Saturday, 4:59 p.m., -0.7 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• March 8, Sunday, 6:43 p.m., -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• March 9, Monday, 7:25 p.m., -1.0 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

• March 10, Tuesday, 8:06 p.m., -0.8 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

• March 11, Wednesday, 8:46 p.m., -0.2 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis

Clammers may not dig for clams before noon for the March and early April digs when low tide occurs in the evening.

There will be an additional four days in March, and 19 days offered to diggers in April. The full list of tentative dates can be found online on the WDFW shellfishing page.

WDFW sets tentative razor clam seasons based on results from annual coast-wide razor clam stock assessments. They also consider the numbers of razors dug to date.

There are two digs of special note.

As Ayres noted in the news release, the Ocean Shores Razor Clam and Seafood Festival on March 21-22, and the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival on April 11 are long-running events that celebrate the unique contribution of razor clams to Washington’s culture and coastal communities.

All diggers age 15 or older must have an applicable fishing license to harvest razor clams on any beach. Every digger must harvest his or her own clams and keep them in a separate container.

Columbian staff writer