Editor’s note: Well, that was fun! Just to be clear, this was my annual April Fools Day blog.
There’s a growing consensus among fish and wildlife experts that the wolverine spotted along the Lower Columbia near Portland last week may have in fact been something of a smelt whisperer.
A week and a half after the giant weasel family member swam across the Columbia from Washington, a huge surge of eulachon smelt entered Oregon’s nearby Sandy, allowing ODFW to hold an entirely unexpected seven-hour dipnetting opener this week, the first on the river in eight years no less.
In a way, the journey of the wolverine – which has since been dubbed The Eula-vorine by confounded USWFS officials – is not unlike how in tribal tradition ribbonfish, also known as king-of-the-salmon, are believed to lead Chinook, coho, pinks and chums back from the ocean past the tip of the Olympic Peninsula.
Given wolverine source populations on Mt. Rainier, biologists say it is possible the Portland disperser came down from the volcano via the Cowlitz River Valley and then by some unclear means headed off the smelt from entering the Washington tributary that has hosted openers in recent years and was expected to see dipnetting this year but inexplicably didn’t, leaving WDFW utterly baffled.
From there, fuzzy trail cam pics and the accounts of drunken plunkers and dudes living down by the river in their vans suggest the wolverine then led the run’s pilot fish past the Lewis River, which occasionally sees smelt, before crossing the Columbia and being spotted by two anglers along the banks of the big river near Portland and making news around the world.
Then, having led the smelt to near the mouth of the Sandy, the wolverine took off on a south-southeasterly overland route and its gravitational pull helped flood the Oregon river with the fish this week, allowing for the first smelt season since 2015.
“I mean, we can’t discount that a wolverine also led 2015’s smelt run to the Sandy, but it’s kinda like this one’s the Pied Piper of Longview or something, spiriting the smelt away from Washington so we could dip for them for a change!” exclaimed ecstatic Beaver State fish and wildlife biologist April Sloof.