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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 16, 2012 at 6:30 PM

Upper Columbia sockeye fishing on upswing, and new study reintroduces them to Cle Elum and Cooper lakes

Here is the lowdown on the Columbia River sockeye returns at this point in time.

At Bonneville Dam more than 511,844 have returned this season. At Wells Dam the single day counts have exceeded 22,000 on July 10 and July 11, which has brought the total count there to 69,958.

This can only mean one thing, and that is now is prime time to sockeye fishing in the Brewster, Rocky Reach area, mouth of the Okanogan River and Wanapum area of the Upper Columbia River.

In fact one reliable source had no problem limiting on sockeye at Brewster the other day.

All this good news about sockeye has also allowed the Yakama Nation and state Fish and Wildlife to reintroduce about 9,500 sockeye trapped at Priest Rapids Dam and release them into Cle Elum Lake.

This is all part of a pilot reintroduction study of sockeye that started in 2009.

Another 500 sockeye were taken to Cooper Lake near Salmon La Sac.

As part of this study state Fish and Wildlife has also changed the fishing rules at Cle Elum Lake and Cooper Lake now through Oct. 31 where a slot limit is in place for kokanee.

A minimum size limit of 7 inches and a maximum size limit of 14 inches is now in place.

Few of the sockeye are smaller than 16 inches, and few landlocked kokanee are greater than 12 inches, therefore, a 14-inch maximum size limit will allow kokanee fisheries to remain open in both of the Kittitas County lakes.

The 7-inch minimum size for retention will also protect juvenile migrating sockeye rearing in the two lakes from being inadvertently caught before they migrate out to sea.

The daily limit in Lake Cle Elum is 16 kokanee), and the daily limit for all trout including kokanee remains five fish in Cooper Lake.

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