Smelt fishery on Sandy River opens March 30 for first time since 2015

Sandy River - Sandy, OR

by OR Department of Fish & Wildlife Staff

SALEM, Ore. – Recreational harvest of eulachon smelt on the Sandy River will be open Thursday, March 30 from noon to 7 p.m.

The open area will be from the mouth of the Sandy River upstream to the Stark Street Bridge with a limit of 10 pounds per dipper. Each dipper must have their own container. Harvest is allowed with dipnet only and smelt may only be caught from the bank. Each dipper must also have a valid 2023 Oregon angling license.

The 10-pound limit is roughly ¼ of a five-gallon bucket or a full 5-quart bucket. Anglers should bring scales to ensure they do not exceed the legal limit.

The eulachon smelt spends most of its life in the ocean, migrating up rivers, including the Columbia and some of its tributaries, to spawn. They grow to be 6-9 inches long and live 3-5 years. Most adults die shortly after spawning, so it is not uncommon to see large numbers of dead smelt along the river.

While Columbia River eulachon smelt were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2010, abundance has recently increased to a level that allows limited, conservative harvest.

Although eulachon smelt return annually to the Columbia River, they only return to the Sandy River periodically, and this is the first time they have been seen in any numbers here since 2015. "We're happy to provide an opportunity for recreational smelt dipping this year," said Tucker Jones, Columbia River Program Manager. "We know it's short notice, but the eulachon smelt will not be present for long in the Sandy, and we're already seeing some post-spawn die-offs." ODFW is hopeful that providing afternoon opportunity during Oregon's spring break will allow access to this somewhat rare opportunity before the smelt are gone from the system.

"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," Jones added.

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OR Department of Fish & Wildlife Reports
for Thursday, March 23rd
: ODFW Recreation Report
Grande Ronde River: Anglers have been catching steelhead on the Grande Ronde River
Hat Rock Pond: Hat Rock Pond will be stocked during the week of March 20
McNary Channel Ponds: Kids’ fishing derby is planned on Saturday, March 26
Umatilla River: To date there have been 1,595 steelhead counted at Three Mile Falls Dam
Wallowa Lake : Boat anglers have been out recently and have reported catching both kokanee and lake trout
Wallowa River: Steelhead fishing has been quite good on the Wallowa River
Haystack Reservoir: The reservoir is currently 63 percent full
Prinevile Reservoir: Prineville Reservoir is slowly filling but still very low at 15 percent full
Rock Creek Reservoir: Rock Creek Reservoir is scheduled to be stocked this week
Blue River Reservoir: The reservoir level is extremely low
Fall Creek Reservoir: Has not been stocked due to extremely low reservoir levels
Foster Reservoir: The reservoir is slowly being refilled for the summer and has come up a few feet over the last week or so
Santiam River ( North Fork) : River is currently running around 2,800 cfs at the gauge in Mehama
Santiam River (South Fork): Currently flows are around 2,000 cfs at the Waterloo gauge as of March 21
Willamette River: River visibility was poor last week and not much effort
Alsea River: This fishery has been fair to good over the last week
Kilchis River: The Kilchis still fishable but will be getting low by the weekend
Miami River: The Miami is getting back on the low side but is still fishable
Necanicum River: Will be getting back on the low side this week but is still fishable
Nehalem River: The lower Nehalem is still high but has good color
Nehalem River- North Fork: The North Fork is a little low, but still fishable and should be through the week
Salmon River: The river is low and clear and fishing pressure has been consistent
Siuslaw River: The colder temps have made the Siuslaw challenging but conditions have remained fair
Trask River: Trask River Fishing Report
Wilson River: Steelhead fishing was good on the Wilson last weekend
Yaquina River: Fishing has been fair and should be good
Applegate River: River is back in shape with some color
Ben Irving Reservoir: Warmwater fishing should be picking up on warmer days
Chetco River: Anglers still have a couple weeks before the river closes to fishing April 1
Coos River: There was a small run of steelhead that pushed upstream on the Coos Basin
Coquille River: The last rain brought some new winter steelhead up the South Fork Coquille and North Fork
Emigrant Reservoir: Emigrant is 34 percent full
Fish Lake : Fish Lake is at 43 percent full
Galesville Reservoir: The level at Galesville is still rising quickly
Howard Prairie Reservoir: Howard Prairie is at 19 percent full
Hyatt Lake: Hyatt has started to fill and is 17 percent full
Illinois River: River conditions should be good through the weekend
Lake Marie: Lake Marie was stocked with trout last week and fishing should be good
Rogue River- Lower: The first spring Chinook of year were picked up last week
Rogue River - Middle: Current flow is around 3,400 cfs
Rogue River- Upper: The release from Lost Creek Reservoir is in the 1,000 cfs vicinity
Sixes River: Fishing conditions have been near perfect
Umpqua River: We have confirmed reports of Chinook being caught on the Umpqua mainstem
North Umpqua River: Relatively fewer steelhead have been moving over the dam
South Umpqua River : Steelhead fishing has been decent on the South Umpqua
Winchuck River: River conditions have been near perfect for steelhead fishing