Category Archives: Headlines

WDFW Launches New Mobile App For Anglers To Check Waters’ Regs

Evergreen State fishing managers are starting to put out word that they’ve launched a new app to help you figure out the regulations for the water you’re on or headed to.

The free Fish Washington Mobile App is available now for downloading onto iOS and Android devices.

Doing so early this afternoon, I learned that the Duwamish River, which flows maybe 80 yards from my desk, is “currently closed to fishing.”

I could’ve figured that out, of course, by looking through WDFW’s 130-some-odd-page 2017-18 rules pamphlet, but this app will be a valuable one for those exploring Washington’s rivers and streams, lakes and beaver ponds, ocean and inside saltwaters without a copy of the regs tucked in their door panel.

“WDFW has been working on this for quite some time, both in Olympia with the app development team and by regional Fish Management Division staff across the state to populate the geo-database with the current rules for waters across the state,” said John Easterbrooks, who oversees fisheries in South-central Washington, in an email message this morning. “As this new tool is refined and expanded, we believe it will largely replace the need for a hard copy rules pamphlet for anglers who carry a smartphone.”

The app actually first became available about two weeks ago, and staffers were handing out info on it at last weekend’s Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show in Pasco.

Easterbrooks says that the soft launch will be followed by a more official release before the big lowland lakes trout opener on the fourth Saturday in April.

He says the app is meant to complement WDFW’s Fish Washington page.

With GPS mode turned on, a geodatabase matches waterways with the regs.

“Tap on a lake or river/creek segment and it will be highlighted in light blue and the current regulation will pop up (drag up to see the full regulation),” says Easterbrooks. “Notifications and emergency rule changes are updated to the database that feeds the app in real-time — useful to the angler who is on the water and wants to check the current rules at his/her location.”

Messing around with the map, I had to chuckle when I saw that a water hazard at Jackson Park Golf Course just down the street from my house is defined as open to year-round fishing under statewide rules.

But just as quickly my jaw dropped upon seeing that Thornton Creek, which flows through said golf course, is open in summer to juvenile anglers.

Hey, I’ve got two juvenile anglers!

The crick is said to hold cutthroat and there is access here and there, though we’ll need to be careful about wading because of the mud snail infestation.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yeah, WDFW’s app.

I don’t know if this was operator error or what, but I did get an error message not long after downloading it to my phone, something about my Gmail crashing.

So far the app has a 3.5 rating at the Google Play Store, with basser Brent Davis commenting on Jan. 10, “Great idea, but its super buggy right now. After more developing Ill re rate but for now I’m having problems with it crashing every time I open it.”

On iTunes, Mr. TXSmith gave it five stars, noting, “It’s off to a good start! I like it. It’s a little slow sometimes, but it’s not a big deal. Can’t wait for a hunting app!”

In the meanwhile, the fishing regs app is available, “nearly complete and is useful now,” according to Easty, so check it out when you get a chance.

WA Fish Commission Adds Another Meeting On Sound King Plan, OKs Some Reg Simplifications

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a package of simplified sportfishing rules for Washington’s rivers, streams and lakes during its Jan. 18-20 meeting in Ridgefield.

 

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also was briefed on proposed updates to a management plan for harvesting Puget Sound chinook salmon.

Commissioners decided to continue to discuss – and potentially provide guidance on – the proposed Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan during a special conference call on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The commission will convene the call at 8:30 a.m.

The public can listen to the work session, but there will be no opportunity for public comment. More information about the call will be posted Monday on the commission’s website athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2018/.

State and treaty tribal co-managers initially submitted the plan to NOAA Fisheries on Dec. 1, 2017. NOAA has already informed the state and treaty tribes that the plan is insufficient, noting that several key salmon stocks would not meet new — more restrictive — federal conservation objectives.

The plan is required by NOAA for the state and tribes to hold fisheries affecting wild Puget Sound chinook, which are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. The proposed 10-year plan, along with feedback from NOAA, is available on WDFW’s website athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/chinook/.

During the meeting in Ridgefield, commissioners approved rules aimed at simplifying sportfishing regulations for freshwater species, including steelhead, trout, warmwater fish, sturgeon, shad and carp.

These rules – which apply to freshwater throughout the state, with some exceptions – will go into effect July 1, 2018. Some of the rules adopted by the commission include:

·       Reducing the number of exceptions to the year-round lake season.

·       Eliminating mandatory steelhead retention.

·       Standardizing the daily limit and minimum size requirements for bass, walleye and channel catfish in the Columbia River (downstream of Chief Joseph dam) and its tributaries, including the Snake River and its tributaries. This change aligns regulations on several rivers with a previously adopted rule that eliminated daily limits and size requirements for these species in most of the region.

WDFW staff withdrew a few proposals that had been put forth during the public review process. One such rule would have allowed chumming statewide while another would have eliminated special rules for panfish statewide. Another rule that was withdrawn would have eliminated a provision that requires anglers using bait to stop fishing for trout after landing the daily limit for that species, regardless of whether the fish are kept or released.

More information on the simplified rules can be found online athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2018/01/agenda_jan1818.html.

In other business, the commission directed WDFW staff to initiate a public process to strengthen the conservation and protection of the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, which has been classified as a threatened species under state law since 1998. Commission members said they favored elevating the level of protection to endangered, which could increase the likelihood of the species’ survival and recovery.

In the 1800s, the sharp-tailed grouse was the most abundant game bird in eastern Washington, with its highest densities in relatively moist grassland and sagebrush vegetation. But with much of its habitat converted to cropland, and in the wake of major fires in 2015, the population has declined to an estimated total of less than 600 birds.

In the coming weeks, WDFW will seek public comments on the proposed change within a timetable that will enable the commission to make a final decision later this year.

A draft report on the bird’s status is available at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/endangered/status_review/.

The commission also voted to make changes to rules for compensating commercial livestock owners for animals killed or injured by wolves. One of those changes establishes market value for the loss of livestock and guard dogs. Another requires livestock producers to exhaust all available compensation from non-profit groups before receiving payment from the department.

Additionally, commissioners approved the purchase of 1.3 acres of floodplain in Whatcom County to restore habitat and 115 acres of land in Ferry County, which includes 3.4 miles of undeveloped shoreline on the Kettle River. The Ferry County acquisition will protect habitat and allow for public access to the river for a variety of non-motorized recreational activities and wildlife viewing.

Minutes and audio recordings of the commission meeting will be available online early next week athttps://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/minutes.html.

ODFW Sets Jan. 30 Meeting In Newport To Talk 2018 Halibut Seasons With Anglers

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

ODFW will be asking for public input on the upcoming spring halibut season for the central Oregon coast at a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the ODFW Marine Resources Program conference room, 2040 SE Marine Science Dr., Newport.

OREGON HALIBUT ANGLERS ARE BEING ASKED FOR INPUT ON THE 2018 FISHERIES OFF NEWPORT — WHERE JESSICA HERBORN CAUGHT THIS NICE ONE IN 2016 — AND ELSEWHERE ON THE CENTRAL COAST. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

ODFW staff will give an overview of the results of the International Pacific Halibut Commission Annual meeting and the resulting quotas.  Then meeting participants will be able to provide input on the number and timing of “fixed” and “backup” dates for the Central Oregon Coast Subarea (Cape Falcon to Humbug Mountain) spring all-depth halibut season.

People who cannot attend the meeting in person can still participate in one of two ways:

·        Join the meeting via GoToMeeting (see details below).

·        Complete an online survey, which will be posted on the ODFW halibut webpage. (Both the online survey and background materials for the meeting will be posted by mid-afternoon on Monday, Jan. 29 on the ODFW halibut webpage http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/finfish/halibut/index.asp.

·        Anglers may also provide input by contacting Lynn Mattes (lynn.mattes@state.or.us) or Christian Heath (Christian.t.heath@state.or.us) at the ODFW Marine Resources Program, (541) 867-4741.

GoToMeeting DETAILS 

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/554636005

You can also dial in using your phone.

United States: +1 (872) 240-3412

Access Code: 554-636-005

With Passage Of Capital Budget (Finally!), $74 Million For Hatcheries, Habitat, Access On Way To WDFW

With Washington’s 2017 Capital Budget finally approved by lawmakers yesterday and now on Governor Inslee’s desk for his signature this afternoon, tens of millions of dollars worth of repairs and upgrades to Washington hatcheries are set to begin.

THE JUST-PASSED 2017 CAPITAL BUDGET INCLUDES $2 MILLION FOR IMPROVEMENTS AT THE WALLACE SALMON HATCHERY NEAR GOLD BAR WHICH REARS COHO, SUMMER CHINOOK AND STEELHEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The package also includes $5 million to improve the health of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s forestlands, $1.5 million for Tucannon River floodplain restoration, $1.2 million for elk-damaged fencing, $1 million for Lake Rufus Woods access and $600,000 for waterfowl habitat across the state, among other projects.

“We very much welcome the Legislature’s action,” said Tim Burns, who heads up WDFW’s Capital and Asset Management Program. “The budget includes $74 million in direct appropriations and grant authority that will enable WDFW to continue making major improvements at our hatcheries, wildlife areas, and other facilities across the state.”

The budget wasn’t passed last year due to disagreements over how to address the state Supreme Court’s Hirst Decision and its impacts on rural landowners.

But this week saw a breakthrough compromise from lawmakers. It involves a mix of limiting how much water new small wells can withdraw, $300 million for inbasin conservation work and shifts the onus of permitting back to the Department of Ecology instead of counties, per the Tacoma News Tribune.

Among WDFW’s fish hatcheries that will benefit from the deal and the work it funds:

Naselle: $8 million for renovations
Minter Creek: $6.5 million for work on intakes
Clarks Creek: $6.35 million for rebuilding
Hoodsport: $4.756 million for holding pond renovations
Forks Creek: $2.425 million for work on intakes, diversion
Wallace: $2.001 million for replacing intakes, holding pond
Soos Creek: $2 million for renovations
Eells Spring: $1.4 million for renovations
Kalama Falls: $816,000 for work on raceways
Dungeness: $615,000 for replacing main intake
Samish: $350,000 for work on intakes

The Capital Budget also includes grants for habitat, recreation and fish passage barrier removals, including:

South Coast: $7.242 million for 14 Coastal Restoration Initiative projects
Buford Creek (Asotin Co.): $4.7 million for a fish passage barrier removal project
Lower Chehalis River: $4.079 million for surge plain protection project
Chico Creek: $3.875 million for fish passage barrier removal project
Woodard Bay: $3.233 million for wetland restoration project
Big Bend Wildlife Area: $3 million for critical habitat project
Cowiche Watershed: $3 million for critical habitat project
Klickitat Canyon: $2.4 million for critical habitat project
Simcoe Wildlife Area: $2.14 million for critical habitat project
Kennedy Creek: $2.111 million riparian project
Sinlahekin Wildlife Area: $245,000 for a campground project
Samish River access: $182,000 for parking, recreation project

California Sea Lions Meet Key Population Goal, Say Federal Researchers

California sea lions have reached a high enough level that West Coast states could begin to take over management.

The National Marine Fisheries Service reports that the pinnipeds are at their “optimal sustainable population,” a triggering point in the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

SEA LIONS CROWD THE DOCKS AT ASTORIA IN SPRING 2015. (WDFW)

Graphs produced by researchers at the federal Alaska and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers for the first-ever comprehensive assessment of the species show sea lion numbers are at their habitat’s carrying capacity, around 275,000 animals.

They first hit that benchmark around 2008, rising to 306,000 before The Blob took a bite out of their lunch, but then rebounded.

“The population has basically come into balance with its environment,” said Alaska-based research biologist Sharon Melin in a NMFS story announcing the news. “The marine environment is always changing, and their population is at a point where it responds very quickly to changes in the environment.”

Melin and her coauthors’ work was published today in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

The story notes that the tripling of sea lion numbers from fewer than 90,000 in 1975 has not come without consequences including chowing down on ESA-listed Chinook, steelhead and other stocks.

NMFS permits Northwest states to take out problem pinnipeds at Bonneville, and the story says that “the species maintained OSP levels even when small numbers of adult males were being removed to protect salmon runs in the Columbia River and climate events were depressing growth.”

To Melin, that means such removal programs are not all that likely to impact the species’ overall population, according to the story.

ODFW is currently asking NMFS for permits to remove sea lions from Willamette Falls, where they’re feasting on winter steelhead like their ancestor Herschel did at the Ballard Locks.

Dalles Pool Sturgeon Retention Closing After Friday

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The recreational sturgeon season in The Dalles Pool (The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam) will close effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, under rules announced today by fishery managers from Oregon and Washington.

WHILE KEEPER SEASON IN THE DALLES POOL IS CLOSED AS OF JAN. 20, CATCH-AND-RELEASE FISHING CAN CONTINUE. KATIE CRAIG CAUGHT THIS DALLES POOL STURGEON. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The states decided to close the sturgeon sport fishery based on catch projections which indicate the 100 fish guideline will be achieved by Friday evening.  Catch rates have been high since the season opened Jan. 1, with an estimated 69 fish kept through Jan. 14.

 Sturgeon fishing remains open in the Bonneville and John Day pools, where the guidelines are 325 and 105 fish, respectively.

Retention sturgeon fishing is closed below Bonneville Dam and below Willamette Falls under permanent sport fishing regulations.

Except for specific sanctuaries, catch-and-release sturgeon fishing remains open in all of these waters, even when retention seasons are closed.

ODFW Reminding Anglers That Snake, Ronde, Imnaha Steelie Limit Back Up To 3

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Now that 2018 is here, anglers are reminded they are once allowed to harvest three hatchery summer steelhead per day in the Snake, Grande Ronde, and Imnaha Rivers, consistent with permanently-adopted regulations.

EMILY LAST NAME UNKNOWN SHOWS OFF A GRANDE RONDE STEELHEAD. (VIA ODFW(

Bag limits had been reduced during the fall through a series of temporary regulations as fish managers implemented conservative management actions for historically-low Columbia River steelhead run in 2017. The steelhead season began Sept. 1 with a one fish limit in Oregon tributaries, including catch-and-release only in the Snake River. Bag limits were increased to two hatchery steelhead per day in the Snake River and tributaries on Oct. 21 when forecasted returns exceeded expectations. The temporary regulations were allowed to expire on Dec. 31, thus reinstating the permanent bag limit.

Fishery managers decided to relax bag limit restrictions after monitoring the returns of Oregon’s Snake River hatchery steelhead, which suggested more than enough fish will return to support the hatchery program and provide normal harvest levels. Jeff Yanke, ODFW District Fish Biologist in Enterprise, attributes the change to conservative management early in the run. “We made justified decisions last fall to reduce harvest in the mainstem Columbia and Snake Rivers, including the tributaries,” said Yanke. “As designed, that allowed more steelhead to escape harvest and return to their natal rivers.”

Typically, about 65 percent of Oregon’s Snake River steelhead survive the migration between Bonneville and Lower Granite Dams but in 2017, over 70 percent survived the journey. Yanke estimates that approximately 1,500 Grande Ronde and 800 Imnaha steelhead will be surplus to production needs, after broodstock collection goals are met. “Now that our steelhead are closer to home, we can be more certain that further restricting angler harvest isn’t necessary,” Yanke said.

Increasing bag limits isn’t just about putting more fish in the freezer, Yanke explained, but is also an important conservation tool for wild steelhead populations. “Unharvested hatchery steelhead can miss their intended destination at hatchery facilities, straying into nearby streams and spawning with wild steelhead,” Yanke said. “Harvest is a tool we use to reduce that risk while achieving the harvest objectives of our programs.” Spring fisheries are important components of the Grande Ronde and Imnaha Rivers, representing 60-80 percent of the hatchery steelhead harvested annually.

While mangers are encouraging anglers to take full advantage of the reinstated harvest opportunity, caution is advised to handle any wild steelhead encountered with care. “Wild steelhead populations, like their hatchery cousins, are also returning at very low levels,” said Yanke. Anglers who catch a wild fish should use proper catch-and-release principles to ensure it arrives on the spawning grounds in perfect condition.

“This year, more than most others, each fish counts for the future,” said Yanke.

WDFW Holding Jan. 23 Workshop On Willapa Sport, Comm Fishing Priorities

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

State fishery managers will hold a public workshop Jan. 23 in Raymond to solicit public comments on priorities for upcoming sport and commercial salmon-fishing seasons in Willapa Bay.

WDFW WANTS TO HEAR FROM WILLAPA BAY SALMON FISHERMEN, BOTH RECS LIKE LAUREN SAELID, HERE WITH TWO 2015 KINGS, AND COMMERCIALS ABOUT UPCOMING FISHERIES THERE. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The workshop, sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. at the Raymond Elks Club on 326 Third St.

Annette Hoffmann, regional WDFW fish manager, said the department is currently seeking guidance on how to reconcile priorities for salmon-fishing opportunities established in the state’s Willapa Bay Salmon Management Policy.

That policy, approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2015, gives recreational fisheries priority in the Willapa Bay chinook harvest, while designating commercial fisheries as the priority for coho fisheries in the bay.

To meet conservation objectives, WDFW requires both fisheries to release any wild chinook salmon they encounter and manages fishing seasons to hold mortality rates for those fish within a prescribed limit.

Hoffmann said the department has asked the commission to provide greater clarity on ways to achieve those priorities, and wants to involve participants in Willapa Bay’s recreational and commercial fisheries in the discussion.

“The commission makes the policy, but we also want to hear from those directly involved in these fisheries,” she said.

Hoffmann said state fishery managers will convey comments heard at the workshop to the commission during a public meeting scheduled Feb. 9-10 in Olympia. The department will then look to the commission to provide guidance in setting fishing seasons for Willapa Bay in 2018 and future years.

SW WA, Columbia Fishing Report (1-16-18)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION ORIGINATED WDFW AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – From the I-5 Br. downstream:  5 bank rods had no catch.  Upstream from the I-5 Br:  19 bank and 1 boat rods had no catch.

WITH HER STEELHEAD RIVER RUNNING HIGH, PAULA CORCORAN WENT WITH A SPIN-N-GLO TAPED WITH HYPER-VIS AND FISHED CLOSE TO THE BANK, CATCHING THIS NICE WINTER-RUN. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Early hatchery steelhead returns to date

Kind of a mixed bag from the same time last year.

River                      2018                       2017

Grays                    0                              30
Elochoman          581                         36
Kalama                 246                         190
Lewis                     251                         1,084
Washougal          193                         128

Note:  Cowlitz is late stock.

Elochoman River – From Shane McEneny, WDFW Fish Hatchery Specialist 4 – This year’s return is coming back from a plant of only 65k smolts but is the first year since before 2009 that the fish were reared with predator netting and fencing. Numbers of returning adults have been phenomenal as we are close to 600 trapped for the season with anticipations of reaching 1,000.  We are surplussing and recycling adults which we haven’t done for years and the fishing pressure has been enormous with a lot of happy fisherman.  Next winter’s return will come back from a plant of almost double the smolts.

Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam – No effort was observed for steelhead.

Sturgeon

Bonneville and The Dalles pools – Boat anglers are catching some legals.  The Dalles Pool was the best with a legal kept per about every 3 rods.

Bass and Walleye

Bonneville Pool – No effort was observed for either specie.

The Dalles Pool – Bank and boat anglers are doing well for walleye.  No effort was observed for bass.

Trout

Recent plants of catchable size to 10 pound rainbows and surplus adult winter steelhead released into SW WA waters.  No report on angling success.

Lake/Pond
Date
Species
Number
Fish perPound
Hatchery
Notes

* CARLISLE LK (LEWI)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=CARLISLE%20LK%20(LEWI)&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>

Jan 08, 2018
Rainbow
100
0.2
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

* HORSESHOE LK (COWL)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=HORSESHOE%20LK%20(COWL)&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>

Jan 09, 2018
Rainbow
115
0.2
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

Jan 04, 2018
Rainbow
2,400
2.34
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

* ICE HOUSE LK (SKAM)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=ICE%20HOUSE%20LK%20(SKAM)&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>

Jan 05, 2018
Rainbow
1,450
2.4
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

* KRESS LK (COWL)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=KRESS%20LK%20(COWL)&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>

Jan 09, 2018
Steelhead
8
0.1
KALAMA FALLS HATCHERY
Adult Winters

Jan 08, 2018
Steelhead
44
0.1
KALAMA FALLS HATCHERY
Adult Winters

Jan 05, 2018
Steelhead
26
0.1
KALAMA FALLS HATCHERY
Adult Winters

Jan 04, 2018
Rainbow
2,000
2.34
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

Jan 04, 2018
Steelhead
30
0.1
KALAMA FALLS HATCHERY
Adult Winters

Jan 03, 2018
Steelhead
22
0.1
KALAMA FALLS HATCHERY
Adult Winters

* LK SACAJAWEA (COWL)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=LK%20SACAJAWEA%20(COWL)&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC

Jan 10, 2018
Rainbow
30
0.1
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

Jan 10, 2018
Rainbow
66
0.2
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

* SPEARFISH LK (KLIC)<https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/search.php?searchby=LakeStocked&search=SPEARFISH%20LK%20(KLIC)&orderby=LakeStocked%20ASC,%20StockDate%20DESC>
Jan 03, 2018
Rainbow
2,080
2.08
GOLDENDALE HATCHERY

Fewer Smelt Than Last Year’s Small Run Expected

Columbia smelt managers are forecasting the fewest of the tasty, oily fish back since at least 2011.

They say the run will be “smaller in magnitude than the 2017 return,” which saw 1.6 million pounds worth of eulachon come into the big river and its lower tributaries to spawn.

SMELT DIPPERS AND OBSERVERS GATHER ALONG THE LOWER COWLITZ ON FEBRUARY 25, 2017, DURING A FIVE-HOUR OPENER THAT WAS DESCRIBED AS “PRETTY MUCH A BUST” WHEN FEW CAUGHT ANY. (OLAF LANGNESS, WDFW)

Following test-boat fisheries, that was enough to open one day’s worth of dipping on the Cowlitz in late February.

But that turned out to be “largely a bust.”

Managers estimate sport dippers harvested all of 540 pounds.

That’s down from 290,000-plus pounds in 2015.

Poor ocean conditions are blamed for recent years’ declining smelt runs, which peaked with 16.6 million pounds in 2014.

A GRAPH AND CHART SHOW COLUMBIA RIVER SMELT ABUNDANCE AND HARVESTS IN RECENT YEARS. (WDFW)

Columbia smelt are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Following longterm declines, seasons were closed for three straight years, but with federal blessing, WDFW was able in 2014 to hold limited “research fisheries” to survey the population.