Now that we know the Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam will be open for sockeye starting Saturday (June 26), many are wondering how do you catch them?
“It (sockeye) is more of a bonus catch when anglers are fishing for summer hatchery chinook and steelhead,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
One way to increase your chance at hooking a sockeye is to downsize your Spin-N-Glo presentation and put on a prawn or Power Bait.
“No one has experimented with using bare red hooks (like what is done in Lakes Washington and Wenatchee), and by doing that it doesn’t give you a shot at catching steelhead,” Hymer said. “The sockeye do follow close along the shoreline although you can find them further out, but in general they are pretty close to shore.”
Sockeye can be kept as part of the two-fish adult salmon daily limit for summer hatchery-marked chinook and steelhead.
Fisheries managers expect less than 1,200 sockeye to be caught by sport anglers since more than half the run has already passed over Bonneville Dam. Most of that catch is expected to occur in the sport fisheries below Bonneville.
The Columbia River sockeye forecast has been upgraded to 250,000 compared to the preseason forecast of 125,000. Through June 23, 164,431 sockeye have returned already.
The largest all-time sockeye return happened in 1947 when 335,300 returned.
The daily counts at Bonneville have gone beyond record highs, and yesterday’s (June 23) single day count was 30,374. That is a brand new record since Bonneville Dam was erected in 1938. The old record was 27,112 on July 7, 1955.
The preseason forecast was for 125,200 fish including 14,300 Wenatchee stock, or 62-percent of the escapement goal for that system.
The TAC says the larger than expected sockeye run should also allow the Wenatchee escapement goal of 23,000 to be met.
What that means for sport fisheries in Lake Wenatchee are still up in the air until the actual numbers of sockeye start arriving back there. Last summer the lake hosted a brief sport fishery.
The bulk of sockeye are heading to the Okanogan River with some turning and moving up the Wenatchee River, and a smaller portion of the run making the really long journey to the Snake River in Idaho.