Outdoors

Columbia River sockeye run likely fourth largest on record

Don Burks, of Yakima, displays part of his catch, taken over a couple of days at the Brewster Pool. He and many other anglers have been doing better than usual because of the record run of sockeye salmon.  (Jesse Tinsley)
Don Burks, of Yakima, displays part of his catch, taken over a couple of days at the Brewster Pool. He and many other anglers have been doing better than usual because of the record run of sockeye salmon. (Jesse Tinsley)

SALMON FISHING — Better late than never – the 2011 sockeye salmon run pouring over Bonneville Dam and heading up the Columbia River likely be the fourth largest since records were started in 1980.

Most of the sockeye are headed for the Wenatchee and Okanagan river basins in central Washington and British Columbia, but around 2,000  are destined for a 900-mile swim up the Columbia and Snake  river systems to spawn in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho.

While this year’s forecast of 181,000 sockeyes is big, it pales to last year’s record run of 387,858.

Beginning yesterday, anglers can retain adult sockeye salmon in the mainstem Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam, including the Okanogan and Similkameen Rivers, and Lake Osoyoos.

Columbia River sockeye returns are surpassing expectations and fisheries managers say, “Game on!”

The daily limit is four sockeye with a minimum size of 12 inches. All coho and steelhead must be released.

Bonneville Dam counts have ranged from 3,329 on July 12 to 5,262 on July 8.

As of Wednesday, 173,500 fish had moved above Bonneville of the 181,000 expected.

Read on for a breakdown on the sockeye fisheries opening:

  • Columbia River from Hwy 395 Bridge at Pasco to Wells Dam open July 14 through Oct 15. Anti-snagging and night closure in effect for Rocky Reach Dam to Turtle Rock.
  • Columbia River from Wells Dam to Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster open July 16 through Aug 31.
  • Columbia River from Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster to Hwy 17 Bridge in Bridgeport open July 14 through Oct 15.
  • Okanogan River from the mouth to Hwy 97 Bridge immediately upstream of mouth open July 14 through Oct 15. Anti-snagging and night closure in effect.
  • Okanogan River from Hwy 97 Bridge immediately upstream of mouth to Hwy 97 Bridge crossing at Oroville open July 14 through Sept 15. Anti-snagging and night closure in effect.
  • Similkameen River from the mouth to 400 feet downstream of Enloe Dam open July 14 through Sept 15. Anti-snagging and night closure in effect.
  • Lake Osoyoos from Zosel Dam upstream to 300 yards south of the 49th parallel (US-Canadian border, which is marked with large fluorescent orange signs) open July 14 through Sept 15.

Important angler note: All sockeye and chinook with a floy (anchor) tag attached must be released. These fish are essential to ongoing studies being conducted by the Yakama Indian Tribe (sockeye) and by WDFW (chinook). Signs will be posted at individual boat launches informing anglers on the study and type of tag that can be expected.

Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement required for all sockeye fisheries.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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