Posts Tagged With: Cowlitz River

Smelt Dipping – It’s Not What You Think

Smelt, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Smelt (Photo credit: David Keaton)

My first thought was that smelt dipping is just another way of saying using chewing tobacco. My second thought was it had something to do with extracting minerals from ore (like copper, silver, etc.) because this is also known as smelting. Turns out I was way off on both thoughts.

The first time I heard of dipping smelt was about 28 years ago. I worked for two bosses who decided I needed to find out what this was all about. They said, “The smelt are running on the Cowlitz!” What? OK, smelt are a small fish, the Cowlitz is a river in Southwest Washington running through Kelso. You don’t catch these fish with a fishing pole, but scoop them up in a net. That’s why it’s known as “dipping.” So we jumped in their car and ran down there. We took a net and went to the river and – nothing. Gee, that was fun. David had tried it many years ago too, without success.

I never thought much more about it, although I heard a lot of people talking about it over the years. They would say how the smelt run used to be so thick you could just go down and dip net after net of the little fishes. But over the years the run got smaller and smaller until it finally became a protected species and smelt-dipping was no longer allowed – until recently. This is the second year that limited time has been opened to allow smelt-dipping.

Using a net to dip smelt, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Using a net to dip smelt (Photo credit: David Keaton)

This past Saturday was one of those dates. We already had plans to go to Portland for the day when we heard about it, but as we drove down I-5 we could see the Cowlitz and a lot of people were out on it. David couldn’t stand it, he had to check it out so we got off the freeway and headed down to the river. It was packed with people, but many were leaving. Not only is the date set, but so is the time – you can only fish from 6am to noon and it was just before noon when we got there.

Pat and Dick Lindeman, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Pat and Dick Lindeman with their smelt catch (Photo credit: David Keaton)

I saw a couple who looked friendly and asked if I could talk to them. Pat and Dick Lindeman are their names and they were very friendly and helpful. They even offered to let us use their equipment next weekend since there is another catch date set for February 14. They showed us their catch, which was the limit, and said they got it in only 2 scoops! Now that’s starting to sound like the stories I have heard!

Smelt in a net, Cowlitz River, Kelso, Washington

Smelt in a net (Photo credit: David Keaton)

If you’re wondering what to do with smelt, Dick said that he will freeze some to use for bait, smoke some, and fry some.

Another nice part about smelt-dipping is that no license is needed, just a net, a bucket, and some good shoes to slog through the mud on the side of the river. Be sure to follow the rules, take only your limit – we want to make sure we do our part to help bring this fish back to its natural run, and we can do that by fishing responsibly. And even though you don’t need a license, if you are fishing past noon you can get a ticket for that, as well as if you go over your limit.

So where will we be on Valentine’s Day? You got it – smelt-dipping!

 

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Categories: Fishing, Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Scanewa, Lewis County, Washington

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Beautiful Lake Scanewa is great for boating as well as fishing! (Photo credit: David Keaton)

Lake Scanewa (sku-NEE-wuh) is a 610-acre reservoir located in Lewis County, Washington, south of Hwy. 12 between the towns of Morton and Randle. It was created by the Cowlitz Falls Dam and is stocked with trout and hatchery salmon. Cowlitz Falls Day Use Park is located on the east end of the lake. By the way, don’t go looking for the falls – they don’t exist anymore. There is a boat launch, picnic tables and restrooms (although not much better than port-a-potties).

We like to go to the day use park because you can do so many things right there. You can fish (starting June 1) from the bank for salmon or trout. There is a small lagoon where kids can swim plus it is blocked off at the beginning of fishing season and stocked with trout for kids to catch. This year’s Kids Fishing Derby will be on Saturday, June 8.

Often you can see the trout jumping and the silver flash of huge salmon rolling around in the water. But nothing is more exciting than hooking that amazing salmon and slowly reeling it in and landing it. And nothing is more heart-breaking than when it gets loose…

Back Camera

He said his was bigger. But I think he just measured wrong…

Back Camera

My first salmon! (Photo credit: David Keaton)

 

You can launch your boat from the boat launch and troll around the lake or up the river, with hopes of increasing your chances of catching that big salmon.

 

 

 

 

But to really get up close and personal with the area, a kayak is the ideal method of transportation. You can get right in to the shallow tight spots that you can’t get to any way else. We even found a small stream just slightly wider than the kayaks and took a ride up it until it got too tight and we had to turn around. You feel very intimate with nature when you can do something like that.

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Another fun thing to do is watch the fish delivery. To stock the lake, Tacoma Power employees must go downriver to capture the fish near Barrier Dam and load them into a big truck. They then transport the fish past the dams, which have no fish ladders, and stock them at various sites including Lake Scanewa. You can also check out Tacoma Power’s website at http://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/fish-wildlife-environment/cowlitz-fish-report.htm to see how many and what kinds of fish they stock each week.

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Tiny islands (Photo credit: David Keaton)

Tacoma Power releases the fish several times a day, including on the weekend. It’s fascinating to watch the truck back up to the boat dock, open the hatch, and dump out hundreds of fish. It’s quite the sight – and quite the tease for fishermen!

 

 

 

Getting there: From Morton, take Highway 12 east to Savio Road (If you get to Randle, you’ve gone too far). Turn right and go to Kiona Road. Turn right and follow Kiona Road to Falls Road. Turn right and continue to the Day Use Park on the left.

From Yakima take Highway 12 west past Randle to Savio Road (if you get to Morton, you’ve gone too far). Turn left and go to Kiona Road. Turn left and follow Kiona Road to Falls Road. Turn right and continue to the Day Use Park on the left.

Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Fishing, Outdoors, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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