It's That Time


Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
We used to dip smelt in the Cowlitz years ago. Are they a different species then those encountered on Puget Sound beaches or in the surf on the coast?
We used to dip smelt in the Cowlitz years ago. Are they a different species then those encountered on Puget Sound beaches or in the surf on the coast?
I think we are at a point in this thread were we ought to be seeking "professional help". NO, not THAT kind of professional help. I mean fisheries biologist type help.
I do know for sure that there are freshwater smelt, saltwater smelt, and, anadromous smelt. Whether the smelt you dipped in the Cowlitz are the same as the smelt we have in Puget Sound I am not sure. I suspect not.
Maybe Smalma will chime in and help us out with this.
Interesting stuff.


Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
Interesting indeed. All the old timers my pop fished with referred to sandlance as candlefish back in the day. I guess we know better now that they are two different species.
I know the Columbia river smelt populations have been down for awhile now, but seem to have rebounded a bit this year.
I can remember filling up a 5 gallon bucket with two scoops of the net back in the day on the Cowlitz.
Floured, seasoned and fried up in butter, those those smelt were delicious.


The wanted posters say Tim Hartman
To my knowledge, CR (freshwater) smelt and saltwater smelt are completely different species.

Back in the day, we called the ones from the Columbia "river smelt" and the ones in the Sound "silver smelt". I've eaten both but wasn't too fond of the river smelt as they seemed soft and mushy.

I grew up on southern PS and spent my life working in the sport-fishing industry. 50 years ago the old-timers called PS smelt "candlefish" and I always thought that these fish were the same as "eulachons" but I'm certainly no biologist so perhaps I'm mistaken.


Active Member
Jack -
Hardly an "expert" on smelt or baitfish in general but my understanding is that 5 species of smelt are found in Washington waters. Those species are: surf smelt, Eulachon (Columbia River smelt), longfin smelt, white bait smelt, and night smelt.

The surf smelt is the one most of us are familiar with here in the sound. They are a marine species that spawns on the small gravel beaches through out Puget Sound (typically during the summer and early fall) at a evening high tide on either side of the high.

The eulachon and longfin smelt are anadromous fish that typically spawn in the lower portions of larger rivers (the Nooksack has a late fall/early fall and the Skagit sometimes has early spring run). At least on population of longfin smelt (Lake Washington) is non-anadromous spending their entire life in freshwater.

The white bait and night smelt are similar to the surf smelt in both general appearance and behaviors. Don't know much about this two species though those "dipped" on the coast may be night smelt.

An interesting group of fish and a major forage fish for a wide array of predators. Where ever our cutthroat and one of the smelt (including Lake Washington) over lap the smelt become "cutthroat candy".

Thanks Curt for spelling it out for us.
Now we just have to convince Leland that a Sand eel/lance is neither a Candlefish nor a smelt.;)

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
I don't know if these will help any. They were found washed up on the ocean beach just north of Twin Harbors St Pk (WA coast, for those from out of state) back in early Feb. My pocket knife is 4 3/8" long. IMGP1593.jpg IMGP1594.jpg


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