The Warm Springs Branch of Natural Resources reports that after many weeks, the main smelt run has appeared in the Cowlitz River.
Smelt are important to the Tribes as they are the first fresh fish of the year after the winter when preserved food is at its lowest point. They are a high fat fish, up to 16%, and prized by many species such as fish, whales, sea lions, birds in addition to being an important food for humans. Smelt can be eaten fresh, dried or smoked for a delicious meal.
They herald the return of spring chinook which are just now showing in the lower Columbia River. Warm Springs people have fish for smelt since time immemorial and continue to do so today.
The State of Washington recognizes the importance of subsistence smelt harvest to the tribes and does not interfere with fishers. Warm Springs Tribal Member harvest information is shared to properly manage smelt so fishermen are reminded to report your harvest.
Unique to this year’s late run, the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery is releasing 76,000 spring chinook smolts this week. They will likely be caught along with the smelt but should be released unharmed so they can swim back as adults. Normally the smelt arrive well before the hatchery releases smolts so this isn’t typically an issue.
Tribal people have been doing well at Carnival Market. Other places to try are Gerhart Gardens Park, Riverside Park and the Camelot-Cooks Ferry area. Please report any harvest to Mark Manion at 541-460-0272 or [email protected] .