Smelt run brings onlookers to Sandy River

Smelt run brings onlookers to Sandy River »Play Video
Millions of smelt swim their way up the Sandy River. (KATU photo)

TROUTDALE, Ore. – Something slimy and scaly took over the Sandy River Sunday.

Millions of them, actually.

An enormous school of smelt is passing through the area for the first time in a decade. The parade stretched 20 miles, marching from the salt waters of the Pacific Ocean to the Sandy and Columbia Rivers to start a new generation.

The smelt run is kind of a swim down memory lane for people like Deanne Paltridge.

“We would come out with parents and grandparents, dip nets in, fill up buckets and take them home,” Paltridge said.

The spectacle of smelt used to be as reliable as Oregon rain. Families would pack the riverbanks like sardines and catch feasts of fish by dipping nets in the water.

Smelt are endangered now. They don’t swim here like they used to, and they’re illegal to catch.

Biologists are studying the migration to see if there will be enough to open up fishing again someday.