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First sockeye returns to Idaho, just one so far…

The first sockeye salmon of the season has returned to the Sawtooth Basin near Stanley, Idaho Fish & Game reports, arriving yesterday evening. Though it’s the only one so far, Idaho Fish & Game spokesman Roger Phillips says they’re not anticipating another “Lonesome Larry” situation, like the year that just one male sockeye – dubbed “Lonesome Larry” – survived the 900-mile, obstacle-laden swim from the mouth of the Columbia River to Redfish Lake in Idaho back in 1992. “Just because of the numbers that have gone over the dam and the previous conversion rates, even though they’re expected to be lower, I think that there’s still probably going to be an adequate number of fish,” said Phillips.

Phillips, incidentally, was the Idaho Statesman’s outdoors writer for the past 15 years; he just left that post on July 2, and started his new job as a public information specialist for Idaho Fish & Game eight days ago. “I had an opportunity to go to work here; I’d been in newspapers for 23 years, and I decided like many others that I’d like to try something different,” he said. “I think I’m uniquely qualified to work at Fish & Game because I’ve covered so many of the issues in depth over the years.” That’s demonstrated in his news release on the sockeye return; you can read it here. It stretches for four pages, and includes lots of detail on the current situation for sockeye salmon and the overall issues facing the fish as they migrate back to Idaho in an unusually hot, dry year.

“Tens of thousands of sockeye have died in the Columbia River,” Phillips writes. “Many other sockeye remaining in the rivers face an uncertain future.” Mike Peterson, F&G’s senior sockeye research biologist, said, “It’s a tough year for all anadromous fish, including sockeye.” Through yesterday, 368 sockeye were counted at Lower Granite Dam; biologists fear that only a fraction of those will make it to the Sawtooth Basin, though the first fish’s arrival yesterday was a good sign.

“Despite a challenging summer, Idaho’s sockeye population has dramatically improved over the last decade, and Fish and Game’s sockeye program is designed to adapt to changing conditions,” Phillips writes. “Biologists are currently in a wait-and-see mode for the fish remaining in the rivers,” while others have been trapped and trucked past stretches of warm waters. “I don’t know what to expect because this is a year we’ve never seen before,” Peterson said. “We’re going to learn the thermal tolerances of these fish.” Peterson is hoping about 30 percent of the sockeye counted at Lower Granite will make the full trip; that’d be roughly 110, the smallest return since 2007. Annual sockeye returns since 2008 have averaged 837 fish, including 1,516 in 2014, the largest return since 1955.

Half of Columbia River sockeye salmon dying due to hot water

More than a quarter million sockeye salmon returning from the ocean to spawn are either dead or dying in the Columbia River and its tributaries due to warming water temperatures, the AP reports; federal and state fisheries biologists say the warm water is lethal for the cold-water species and is wiping out at least half of this year's return of 500,000 fish. "We had a really big migration of sockeye," said Ritchie Graves of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The thing that really hurts is we're going to lose a majority of those fish." He said up to 80 percent of the population could ultimately perish. AP reporter Keith Ridler has a full report here.

Fires scorch hopes for sockeye fishermen

FISHING — The heat and smoke of wildfires is forcing some anglers to temporarily chill their enthusiasm for catching a share of the record run of sockeye heading into the upper Columbia.

Pateros area is being evacuated tonight because of the Carlton Complex fires, and the city of Brewster is feeling the heat just as anglers are piling in to reap the bounty of fish.

And anglers could be blocked from Saturday's opening of the Lake Wenatchee sockeye season by firefighting efforts that have closed the state park boat access.



Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishing to close

FISHING — Sockeye salmon fishing at Lake Wenatchee will close Sunday after sunset, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just announced.   Here are the details:

Closure goes into effect:  Aug. 18, 2013, one hour after official sunset.

Reason for action: Officials estimate that sockeye available for harvest (those in excess of the natural spawning escapement goal of 23,000 fish) will have been caught and removed from the lake by the end of Sunday.

Sockeye run downsized, but good fishing expected

FISHING — This year's sockeye run to the upper Columbia River is about a third the size of the 2012 run, but don't let that discourage you.

Last year's return of more than 500,000 sockeye was a record to behold.

This year's estimate of about 155,000 still offers plenty of opportunity. (The run forecast was lowered from 180,000 on Monday)

The sockeye are coming over Bonneville Dam at the rate of 4,000-7,000 a day, totaling 121,750 so far.

  • 32,084 have moved over Priest Rapids Dam.
  • 19,947 over Wanapum Dam.
  • 12,947 over Rock Island Dam.
  • 7,699 over Rocky Reach Dam.
  • 3,380 over Wells Dam.

The catch and keep season on much of the river opened Monday with anothe stretch to open July 16.

See this story by Rob Phillips of Yakima for some good tips toward getting on top of this fishery, especially for anglers with boats.

In a forecast revision released on Monday, federal, state and tribal fish managers predict 60,000 summer kings will return to the mouth of the Columbia River this season.

Sockeye season to open July 1 on upper Columbia

FISHING — Sockeye will be fair game in the upper Columbia River and some a portion of the Okanogan starting Monday, according to this anouncement posted today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:Allow retention of sockeye salmon from Priest Rapids Dam upstream to Chief Joseph Dam, including a portion of the lower Okanogan River

Effective dates and locations:

  • July 1, 2013 until further notice from Priest Rapids Dam to Wells Dam
  • July 16, 2013 until further notice from Wells Dam to Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster
  • July 1, 2013 until further notice from Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster to Chief Joseph Dam
  • July 1, 2013 until further notice from mouth of Okanogan River upstream to the first Highway 97 Bridge

Species affected:Sockeye salmon

Reason for action:Recent estimates of Okanogan sockeye are predicted to be adequate to allow for an anticipated low level (3,000-4,000) of angler harvest.

Other angler information:

  • Daily limit six (6) salmon.
  • No more than (2) adult hatchery chinook salmon and two (2) adult sockeye salmon may be retained in daily limit.
  • Minimum size for adult chinook salmon is 24 inches.
  • Minimum size for adult sockeye salmon is 12 inches.
  • Anglers must stop fishing once adult salmon limit has been harvested.
  • Barbless hooks required, bait is allowed.
  • Anglers may fish with two poles with two pole endorsement.
  • Anglers are reminded that salmon with floy tags and/or one or more holes (round, approximately ¼" in diameter) punched in the tail must be released.
  • Anglers must have a current Washington fishing license as well as a Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement (CRSSE). Revenue from the CRSSE supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the upper Columbia River steelhead fisheries. The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin.

Sockeye fishing opens Friday on Hanford Reach

FISHING — The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River will open to fishing for sockeye salmon on Friday, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just announced.

Here are the details:

Action:  Open the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River to the retention of sockeye salmon.

Effective date:   12:01 a.m. June 21 through July 31, 2013.  

Species affected:  Sockeye salmon.

Locations:  From Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco to Priest Rapids Dam.

Reason for action:  The run of upper Columbia River sockeye returning to the Wenatchee River and the Okanogan River is sufficient to support the anticipated low level of harvest in the Hanford Reach below Priest Rapids Dam.

Other information:  The daily limit remains six (6) salmon, including sockeye and hatchery chinook only, but no more than two (2) adult hatchery chinook may be retained.

Anglers must have a current Washington fishing license. Check the current WDFW “Fishing in Washington” rules pamphlet or the Fishing section of the WDFW webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/  for details on fishing seasons and regulations. Fishing regulations are subject to change. Check the WDFW Fishing hotline for the latest rule information at (360) 902-2500; press 2 for recreational rules; call the Shellfish Rule Change hotline, (360) 796-3215, or toll free 1 (866) 880-5431.

Fewer fish to follow record sockeye year

FISHERIES — A record 515,700 sockeye salmon was counted this year at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.

The run count — the most since counting began at Bonneville Dam in 1938 — far exceeded the agency's preseason forecast of 462,000 fish.

The record run translated into a record 3,400 sockeye caught by sport anglers during the summer season in river reaches below the dam. 

So many fish reached the Upper Columbia, the Brewster pool region was covered with boats as anglers fished for their generous daily limits of six sockeye and six chinook.

For 2013, a total of 180,500 sockeye are predicted to return to the Columbia River basin, less than half of last year's forecast.

Editorial: Breaching dams cheaper way to save Idaho sockeye

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Another point of view…

Breaching dams a better, cheaper way to save Idaho's sockeye

The Seattle Times' recent article on the federal government's work to save sockeye salmon estimated that the per-fish price tag of raising wild fish in hatcheries was $9,000, a spendy proposition that still has not pulled the species back from the edge of extinction, and a better method would be to remove the dams that block the wild fish's age-old migration from the West Coast to Redfish Lake in Central Idaho, according to an Idaho Statesman editorial.

Click "continue reading" to see the entire editorial:

Idaho sockeye salmon recovery effort documented

SALMON FISHERIES — Sockeye salmon that make an incredible 900 mile journey from the ocean up the Columbia River system to reach their spawning areas in central Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains have a grim history of abuse.

They also are in the spotlight of a remarkable effort aiming at their recovery.

The Seattle Times has done a nice job of compiling the story and updating the status of a fishery that deserves our awe and respect.

Seattle Times

The extraordinary effort to save sockeye salmon

Why sockeye crashed: dams, poison and more 

Sockeye regaining ground throughout Columbia region

FISHERIES More than a century after their runs up the Cle Elum River were wiped out by dams, the sockeye are spawning again this year, thanks to a boost from fisheries programs.

Meantime, the Yakama Nation is in the fourth year of spearheading an effort to reintroduce this prized salmon species back into the Yakima River Basin. 

Sockeyes bound for the Wenatchee and Okanogan rivers were trapped at Priest Rapids Dam about three months ago and trucked them to Lake Cle Elum for release. A total of 10,000 wild sockeye were released in the lake this year, a number that has grown steadily each year because of the abundance of the Columbia River sockeye run. The Yakama Nation plans to harvest fish at Priest Rapids after the overall run reaches 80,000 fish.

Ultimately, the program seeks to establish a self-sustaining run of Yakima River sockeye that will allow for a sport fishery.

The total Columbia River run this year approached 600,000 fish as daily counts set June records at Bonneville Dam.

See more in this report by the Yakima Herald-Republic.

Opportunity knocks for upper Columbia kings

SALMON FISHING — Fishing guide Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Fishing Guide Service says now's prime time for catching good-quality chinook salmon in the upper Columbia River near Brewster.  Here's his report:

On the Brewster Pool the bite has transitioned from Sockeye to Kings.  This is a short window where the Chinook are more eager to bite and still of good eating quality.  These Kings will bite Super Baits and Plug Cut Super Baits as well as plug cut herring.  

Mountain Dew Plug Cut Super baits 42” behind a big rotating flasher is one tried and true presentation.  Fill the Super Bait with oil based tuna and dip it in your favorite sauce.  We like Pautzke’s Krill Juice.  Make sure your herring is fresh and cured nicely to stay on the hooks.   

Sockeye limit increased at Lake Wenatchee

SALMON FISHING — Starting tomorrow (Aug. 18), the daily limit for sockeye at Lake Wenatchee will increase to five fish 12 inches or longer. 

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just anounced the change along with an extension of the sockeye fishing season at Lake Wenatchee through Labor Day.

Reason for action:  To date, at least 46,000 fish have migrated past Tumwater Dam in route to Lake Wenatchee. Projections of the total run could exceed 62,000 fish. Current angler participation and catch rates have indicated that these actions are warranted.  At least 23,000 fish are estimated to be available for harvest above the natural spawning escapement goal of 23,000 fish. To date, less than 7,000 sockeye have been estimated in the harvest.

Read on for more detals from the WDFW.

Brewster pool sockeye still bright, popular

FISHING — Sockeye salmon fishing in the upper Columbia River is still generating plenty of interest among anglers, and good numbers of fish for the freezer.

The early morning bite in the Brewster Pool can be particularly hot, said Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service:

"The suggested formula for Sockeye would be a big Mack’s Lures Double D Dodger," he said.  "Then add a 12” leader of 30 or 40 pound test mono back to a Mack’s Mini Cha Cha Squidder in Pink & White. 

"Space the hooks about 2 inches apart.  Then bait the hooks with 1 inch chunks of shrimp cured in Pautzke’s Fire Cure.  Fish this ensemble about 15 down to start."   

Anglers greet first of 30,000 sockeye at Lake Wenatchee

FISHING — Anglers reported easy limits of sockeye salmon when the fishing season opened Saturday at Lake Wenatchee.

About 30,000 sockeye are espected to enter the lake this month.

See an opening day report from Northwest Sportsman magazine.

The nicest people fish for Upper Columbia salmon

SALMON FISHING — Crowds of anglers are postponing their Alasaka dream trip because there's no reason to leave Washington.

The record run of sockeye salmon booming up the Columbia is attracting large numbers of people to the upper reaches of the river near Brewster, as we've beem mentioning in our weekly fishing report.

Get the latest tip on catching the sockeye here.

An observation of special interest just came in from Jeff Holmes, a Tri-Cities-based angler/writer, who recently returned from bagging limits of salmon.

Those sockeye are easy to catch, relatively speaking.  What a pleasant fishery of polite anglers and no fighting.  Very different from mid-Columbia.

Can anyone explain when one congregation of anglers can be civil while others are gnarly?

Sockeye are hot item in Upper Columbia

SALMON FISHING — Sockeye salmon fishing is hot at the mouth of the Okanogan River near Brewster, and it's no secret.

Anton Jones of Darrell and Dad's Family Guide Service said anglers have converged on the fishery, requiring some thought to how to cope with the crowd.

"Strap on your patience as there were 345 boats on Saturday on the Columbia at the mouth of the Okanagon," he reports.

"Fish the edge of the old channel just above the depth you mark them on your sonar," he said.  "Pull big chrome dodgers with a short heavy leader back to a big Mack’s Lures Wedding Ring baited with a piece of Pautzke Fire Cured Shrimp. 

"You can also get some Chinook fishing Super Baits behind a rotating flasher.  Fill those Super Baits with oil based tuna and dip them in Pautzke’s Krill Juice. 

Jone's tip:

Keep your set backs short when you are in that combat fishery at the mouth of the Okanogan.  Twenty feet back is plenty.  More setback will lead to tangles with other anglers. 

Yes, that does have a double meaning. 


Idaho sockeyes return in second largest numbers since 1950

FISHERIES — At least 1,071 Snake River sockeye salmon spawners have completed their journey from the Pacific Ocean 700 miles upstream to central Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley, making it the second largest return since the 1950s or longer.

Most of the salmon moved upstream in July. When they cross Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River just before entering Idaho — the eighth and final hydro project they encounter up the Columbia, Snake and Salmon rivers — they still have 400 miles to go.

The top sockeye count since Lower Granite was completed in 1975 was 2,201 in 2010. This year’s count is at least 1,502.

Sockeye surprise

Sockeye salmon ride home in a fisherman’s cooler from the Brewster Pool, the stretch of the Columbia River near Brewster, Wash., on July 22. Sockeye are generally smaller than other varieties but still popular for their flavor.

BREWSTER, Wash. – A record run of sockeye salmon surging up the Columbia River this summer has delighted folks in this apple-growing region just east of the Cascades.

”We caught seven yesterday, five the day before,” said Kimberlee Ann Woods, of Ephrata, Wash., while waiting to launch her boat at Brewster in late July.

More than 386,300 sockeye have been counted this summer at Bonneville Dam east of Portland. Mike Prager, SR, Full Story.

What are you fishing for and where?