By Bob Brown
Some fishing notes:
• The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is reporting the Columbia River smelt abundance for 2017 is expected to be modest in size, similar to or slightly smaller in magnitude than in 2011 and 2012 returns. Ocean conditions were favorable for marine survival during 2012 and 2013, but have deteriorated the past three years.
Commercial and recreational fisheries were closed to all harvest in 2011-13, but conservative reduced Level-1 fisheries were reinstated in 2014 to collect biological and catch per-effort data. The 2014, 2015 and 2016 commercial fisheries each consisted of eight fishing periods over four weeks in the mainstem Columbia.
• How is recreational fishing doing on the Cowlitz River? According to Joe Hymer of the WDFW, fishing hasn’t been that great. A sport samplings taken Jan. 16-22 tallied one boat angler with no catch. Forty–three bank anglers sampled kept one adult coho and released two steelhead, two adult coho and one cutthroat. Except for the cutthroat, all other action was at Barrier Dam.
Karen Glaser of Barrier Dam Campground backs up Hymer’s assessment; reporting that things have be1en pretty grim for the past couple of weeks due to weather conditions and fluctuating water levels. As a result, not many people have been fishing, but with warmer conditions that is expected to change.
Last week Tacoma Power employees recovered 247 coho, 11 jacks, three winter run steelhead and one cutthroat trout at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. They also released 67 coho adults, nine coho jacks, one cutthroat trout and two  winter-run steelhead adults into the Tilton River at Gus Backstrom Park in Morton.
Steven W. Gray, WDFW fish biolgist, reported fishing has been very slow on the Coweeman, East Fork Lewis and Kalama rivers.

No change in hunting and fishing license fees

The state’s 2017- 18 hunting and fishing licenses are available for sale, and license fees for the 2017-18 season haven’t changed from the previous year. Customers can access the WDFW licensing system at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/.
Peter Vernie, licensing division manager, said, “With the release of our new licensing system last month, we opted to delay selling 2017-18 licenses in order to avoid printing licenses from two separate systems, with slightly different formatting, for a single year.” With an additional month to refine the system, WDFW is now ready to process the 2017-18 licenses, he added.
WDFW sells 2.5 million licenses annually through it’s website and through 600 retail stores across the state.
Dates to note:
• Special hunt applications for most big-game species will be available after the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission approves the 2017-18 hunting season at its meeting in April in Spokane.
• Spring bear hunters hoping to draw a permit for 2017 can purchase their application now and will be able to submit for their preferred hunt choice online from Feb. 15 through Feb. 28. The spring bear drawing will occur in early March.

Bob Brown lives in Roy and is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at robertb1285@centurylink.net