Where to smelt in Washington

Surf Smelt - Recreational Fisheries


Photo; Coastal smelt Fishery.


Surf smelt recreational fisheries occur year-round and are scattered throughout the coast and Puget Sound. Coastal recreational fisheries generally harvest spawning surf smelt during the summer months. An example is the fishery at Kalaloch and Ruby beaches, south of LaPush.

Photo; Surf smelt dip bag.

In Puget Sound recreational surf smelt fisheries occur in all months of the year on spawning fish and seasonally on non-spawning fish. Traditionally surf smelt fisheries on spawning fish occur at evening high tides on the spawning grounds. Participants stand along the high tide line or wade in shallow water to "dip" or "rake" surf smelt as they come inshore to spawn. The traditional gear is a surf smelt dip bag or "rake" which appears to be more like a cage attached to a long pole. Typically the dip bag is rested in water slightly deeper than the bag frame.

With careful attention to the attached pole, surf smelt which enter the bag can be detected by sight or feel as they encounter the net. When surf smelt have entered the bag it is swiftly drawn inshore where the fish are recovered. In this type of fishery more males are caught than females, and only mature fish are harvested.

In addition to dip or rake fisheries on spawning fish, congregations of non-spawning surf smelt are harvested by "jig" fisheries. These congregations are made up of juvenile surf smelt and adults recovering from spawning.

"This is a reproduction of a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife document and is not the official document or regulations of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The accuracy of the reproduction cannot be guaranteed by WDFW."