Smelt dippers rushed to the lower Sandy River on Thursday, 30 March 2023, for the first time in eight years to catch the oily fish during a rare seven-hour season.
Hundreds of people lined the riverbanks near where the Sandy River meets the Columbia River to take advantage of the rare chance to fish, which has been going on for a long time. People used big dipping nets and 5-gallon buckets to catch smelt.
Biologists are now waiting to hear about dipping in the Sandy River so they can decide if they can let more people do it.
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Each person with a fishing license in 2023 could catch up to 10 pounds. Silvery fish about 6 to 9 inches long, called Eulachon smelt, come back to the Columbia River yearly, but only sometimes to the Sandy River.
This was the first time they had been seen in any number since 2015, so managers decided to let people dip briefly.
Tucker Jones, Columbia River program manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, “Initially we were concerned that the timing of the smelt return would overlap with releases of hatchery spring Chinook smolts which would make a fishery impossible, but after consulting with district fish biologists, we’ve determined that we are actually in a sweet spot between releases.”
The smelt are running! Smelt fishery on the Sandy River opens March 30 for first time since 2015. https://t.co/7lbhsCTQV5 pic.twitter.com/RUJOpwu3nJ
— Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (@MyODFW) March 28, 2023
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