They didn’t talk about the one that got away. Instead, the disgruntled sport fishermen who crowded the banks of one of Southwest Washington’s most popular rivers recently mourned a fish that never showed up.
Smelt, that is. Like a welcoming committee jilted by the guest of honor, hundreds of sports fishermen left the Cowlitz River with empty dip nets and unused buckets. They were skunked by a smelt run so small that some fear the fish are close to extinction.
In November, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe petitioned federal fisheries managers to grant Endangered Species Act protection for the oily little fish, whose annual return to the Columbia River and its tributaries has lured people for thousands of years. A preliminary listing decision — whether to accept or reject the petition — is expected soon.