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Snake River sockeye running toward recovery

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Once on the brink of extinction and still too close for comfort, Snake River sockeye surpassed an important milestone this week.

Through Friday, 1,348 sockeye have been trapped in the Sawtooth Basin, the most since the run was placed on regulatory life support and a captive breeding program was initiated more than 20 years ago.

Read on for an update from the Lewiston Tribune on the status of this remarkable fishery that runs upstream 900 miles past the unnatural barriers of Columbia and Snake River dams:

By Eric Barker/Lewiston Tribune

Following decades of struggle, sockeye that return to Redfish Lake and other large lakes near the headwaters of the Salmon River bottomed out in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Returns were often in the single digits, and in some years not a single adult completed the journey from the ocean. Sockeye were protected as an endangered species in 1991 and a captive breeding program began the same year.

Under the program designed to preserve the genetics of the fish and keep the run from blinking out, returning adults were bred in captivity and the bulk of their offspring spent their entire lives in a hatchery setting. Numbers were slowly bolstered to allow more and more smolts to be released to migrate downstream to the ocean.

Returns remained meager to modest for several years and then made a jump starting in 2008, when 650 sockeye returned to the basin. That was followed by 833 in 2009 and 1,322 in 2010. This week, the 2014 run topped the 2010 run and is now the third-largest since 1956 - when 1,381 sockeye returned.

“Just based on how fish are coming back into the basin, we may surpass that 1956 number,” said Mike Peterson, an Idaho Fish and Game senior research biologist at Nampa. “Certainly this is the highest number of Snake River sockeye that have crossed over Lower Granite (Dam) and the highest number of adults trapped since the captive brood program initiation.”

In 1961, 4,351 sockeye returned to the basin, the most ever recorded. But that pales in comparison to returns before the fish were counted at weirs. Fisheries biologists don’t know exactly how many sockeye once made the journey from the Pacific Ocean to the deep, clear and cold lakes at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. An Idaho State University study led by professor Bruce Finney estimated the run once numbered between 25,000 to 40,000 fish. Redfish Lake reportedly got its name because the fish, which turn crimson while spawning, made the lake shimmer red.

The run was nearly choked out with the 1910 construction of Sunbeam Dam on the Salmon River, about 20 miles downstream from Redfish Lake Creek. The crude concrete structure, which was breached in 1934, had little to no fish passage during its lifespan and fisheries biologists are not certain if the run was re-established by resident kokanee salmon or if enough adults were able to make it through the dam to allow the run to persist.

Now with numbers improving, the run could be poised to make another significant jump. Last year, the Springfield Fish Hatchery was built near Blackfoot to boost production of sockeye. The first set of juveniles raised there will be released next year, and by 2017 Peterson said the hatchery should hit its full production goal of 1 million smolts per year. More juveniles released should lead to more returning adults. This year’s return is based on the release of only about 165,000 smolts.

But for now, program officials are content to wait and see how much higher this year’s return will climb. Between 10 to 20 sockeye have been trapped at weirs in recent days. And while the run appears to have peaked, it could persist for a number of weeks.

“We are kind of excited to see where we end up,” Peterson said.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye season to close after Labor Day

FISHING — Not much time left, according to this announcement just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  Lake Wenatchee closes for sockeye salmon fishing. 

Effective date: Sept. 1, 2014 (one hour after official sunset).

Species affected:  Sockeye salmon

Location:  Lake Wenatchee (Chelan Co.)

Reason for action:  The majority of adult sockeye salmon currently in Lake Wenatchee will soon become largely unavailable to anglers due to their annual migration to the spawning grounds on the White and Little Wenatchee Rivers.  Sockeye condition and desirability will have declined drastically. This closure will further reduce unnecessary impacts to bull trout with such relatively few sockeye still being present in Lake Wenatchee. 

Tips offered for catching sockeye piling into Lake Wenatchee

FISHING — As this year's record run of Columbia River sockeye pushes upstream, a record number of the salmon is headed into Lake Wenachee, where savvy anglers are finding some good fishing.

This blog post by Andy Walgamott offers some creative tips to catching the sometimes finicky sockeyes at this sweet lake near Leavenworth.

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.

 

 

Fires may block access to Lake Wenatchee sockeye anglers

FISHING — All roads are currently closed to Lake Wenatchee, where a popular sockeye salmon fishery is set to open Saturday (July 19).

With several wildfires burning in the area, state officials have closed U.S. Highway 2 east of Stevens Pass as well as Old State Route 209 (“Chumstick Road”) between Leavenworth and the lake.

Washington State Parks has also closed entry to Lake Wenatchee State Park, the site of the primary boat launch on the lake.

“The sockeye fishery will open as scheduled, but anglers may have to wait for a few days to get to it,” said Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We strongly advise they check reports on fire and road conditions before they head out.”

Sources of that information include:

Information on the upcoming sockeye fishery is available on WDFW's website.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye season starts Saturday

FISHING — The record run of sockeye up the Columbia River has made way for a salmon season on Lake Wenatchee starting Saturday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has just announced.

However, fires may block road access for the opener.

Action:   Lake Wenatchee opens for sockeye salmon fishing. 

Effective date: July 19, 2014 (one hour before official sunrise).

Species affected:   Sockeye salmon

Daily limit: The daily limit per angler is 6 sockeye, 12 inches in length or greater.  

Location:   Lake Wenatchee (Chelan Co.)

Reason for action:   Based on current sockeye passage at both Tumwater Dam and mainstem Columbia River Dams, at least 65,000 total sockeye are projected to be destined for Lake Wenatchee. This provides an estimated 42,000 sockeye to be available for harvest above the natural spawning escapement goal of 23,000 fish.  

Other information: Selective gear rules (up to three single barbless hooks per line, no bait or scent allowed, knotless nets required) in effect. Anglers may fish with 2 poles as long as they possess a valid two-pole endorsement.  A night closure will be in effect.  Legal angling hours are one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.  Bull trout, steelhead, and chinook salmon must be released unharmed without removing the fish from the water.

NOTE:   The Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery may be closed on short notice depending on participation and catch rates.  Anglers are advised to check daily the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/rules_all_freshwater.j

Anglers are required to possess a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement as part of their valid fishing license.  Revenue from the endorsement supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the Columbia River fisheries.  The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River basin. 

More of the Columbia opened to 6-sockeye daily limit

FISHING — With a record run charging upstream, the catch limit for sockeye is being increased to six a day in the Columbia River upstream from the Tri-Cities.

On Friday the limit was increased from four to six upstream from Priest Rapids to Wells Dam.

Starting Tuesday, the sockeye daily limit will be increased for the mainstem Columbia above the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco.

On Wednesday, the six-fish limit will be allowed in the Wells Dam area, making the entire upper Columbia to Chief Joseph Dam — except the section that's closed to fishing and access because of Wanapum Dam repairs — open for six a day.

Here are the details just announced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action: Anglers will be able to retain eight salmon and up to six adult sockeye salmon in the mainstem Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam.

Effective dates and locations on Mainstem Columbia River:

  1. From Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco to Priest Rapids Dam, July 15 – July 31, 2014.
  2. From Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam, July 11 – Aug. 31, 2014.
  3. From Wanapum Dam to Wells Dam, July 11 – Oct. 15, 2014.
  4. From Wells Dam to Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster, July 16 – Aug. 31, 2014.
  5. From Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster to Chief Joseph Dam, July 11 – Oct. 15, 2014

Species affected: Sockeye salmon

Reason for action: Sockeye salmon returns above Priest Rapids Dam are predicted to be far in excess of needs for wild fish escapement to the spawning grounds. The population is not listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

Other rules: Minimum size 12 inches. Daily limit eight salmon, up to two may be adult hatchery chinook and up to six may be sockeye. Release coho and wild adult chinook.  Release all sockeye with colored anchor (floy) tag attached. 

Other Information:  All anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement to participate in this fishery. Revenue from the endorsement 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.

It’s a record run! Sockeye limit upped to 6

FISHING — A rocketing spike of sockeye salmon up the Columbia River set run records this week and prompted the Washington Department of Fish Wildlife to increase the daily limit of sockeye to SIX in the river upstream from Priest Rapids Dam (details below).

That big pulse of fish at Bonneville is on its way upstream to the popular upper Columbia fisheries — where anglers already are socking it to the sockeyes — from the Hanford Reach almost to Brewster.

Last week, fish managers raised their expectations from a run of around 340,000 to 425,000, calling the run the second largest since records have been kept.

This week, the joint federal-state-tribal Technical Advisory Council increased the forecast to a total of 526,367 sockeye over Bonneville — a jump of 10,694 fish from the record run in 2012. 

And some are suggesting the number could go to more than 600,000 — that's in the realm of colossal.

Fish counters tallied more than 34,000 sockeye up the Bonneville Dam fish ladders on on July 4 and again on July 5.  The numbers dropped significantly after that and will taper from there, fish managers said.

Anglers are getting to harvest the bounty. Today WDFW announced a sockeye fishing season starting immediately at Lake Osoyoos as well as an increased daily bag limit as follows:

Action: Anglers will be able to retain eight salmon, including up to six adult sockeye salmon, in the mainstem Columbia River above Priest Rapids Dam.

Effective dates and locations: Mainstem Columbia River:

  1. From Priest Rapids Dam to Wanapum Dam, July 11-Aug. 31, 2014.
  2. From Wanapum Dam to Wells Dam, July 11-Oct. 15, 2014.
  3. From Wells Dam to Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster, July 16-Aug. 31, 2014.
  4. From Hwy 173 Bridge in Brewster to Chief Joseph Dam, July 11-Oct 15, 2014.

Species affected: Sockeye salmon.

Reason for action: Sockeye salmon returns above Priest Rapids Dam are predicted to be far in excess of needs for wild fish escapement to the spawning grounds.  The population is not listed under the Endangered Species Act. 

Other rules: Minimum size 12 inches.  Daily limit eight salmon, up to two may be adult hatchery chinook and up to six may be sockeye.  Release coho and wild adult chinook.  Release all sockeye with colored anchor (floy) tag attached. 

Other information:  All anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement to participate in this fishery. Revenue from the endorsement 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.

Idaho dedicates hatchery to wild sockeye revival

FISHERIES — State and federal officials are gathering today just outside of Springfield, Idaho, near American Falls Reservoir to mark the completion of a new hatchery that will take the recovery of Snake River sockeye to a higher level.

The $13.5 million facility will be capable of producing up to 1 million juvenile sockeye annually for release in the Sawtooth Basin of central Idaho, the headwaters of the Salmon River.

This additional incubation and rearing space will move the sockeye recovery effort from the conservation phase to a re-colonization phase where emphasis will be on returning increasing numbers of ocean-run adults to use in hatchery spawning and to release to the habitat for natural spawning.

The increase may eventually lead to recreational and tribal fishing seasons.

The hatchery will be operated by Idaho Fish and Game. It was was funded by the Bonneville Power Administration as part of its obligation to mitigate the impact of hydropower dams on salmon and steelhead.

Read on for more details about the hatchery and the history of the remarkable fish that, despite the formidable barriers of dams and reservoirs, make a 900-mile return up the Columbia and Snake River systems to their spawning areas in the Sawtoon Mountains.

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.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishing almost too fast

SALMON FISHING — A note from one of my blog readers indicates the sockeye fishing has been great at Lake Wenatchee.

Thank you for your article on the Lake Wenatchee Sockeye Opener last week.

I took my 87 year old uncle out on Saturday, and we limited by 6:45am.

It was so good, I took my sister and her two kids out on Sunday, and we limited by 7:45am.

The funny thing was, we live in the Everett area, so we drove almost 2 hours to get there, fished for 2 hours, then drove 2 hours to get home.

It was a blast!!!

I am having a very hard time finding sockeye counts at Tumwater dam.  Can you please tell me how I can find these counts?

I know fishing dwindles with the counts, and I don’t want to make the long drive and not catch fish.

I would appreciate any information you can share, websites, phone numbers, anything.  Thanks so much.

— Tad Kasuya

Although the information is not updated as often as anglers would like in season, counts for sockeye heading up the Wenatchee River to Lake Wenatchee are available here, courtesy of WDFW and Chelan PUD’s Tumwater Dam fishway.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishing opens Aug. 3

FISHING — A sockeye fishery for Lake Wenatchee has just been announced, and it will open Saturday (Aug. 3).

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials say enough fish are moving into the Chelan County lake to allow a season with a limit of two sockeye, 12 inches in length or greater.

More than 27,000 fish have made passage at Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River. About 30,000 total sockeye are projected with 7,000 estimated to be available for harvest above the natural spawning escapement goal of 23,000 fish. 

The fishery could be closed on short notice depending on how the run develops and the success of anglers.

Other information: 

  • Selective gear rules (up to three single barbless hooks per line, no bait or scent allowed, knotless nets required) in effect.
  • A night closure will be in effect. 
  • All sockeye with a floy (anchor) tag attached and/or one or more round ¼ inch in diameter holes punched in the caudal (tail) fin must be released.  These fish are essential to ongoing studies being conducted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Bull trout, steelhead, and Chinook salmon must be released unharmed without removing the fish from the water. 
  • Two-pole endorsement is not valid for this fishery.  
  • 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.

NOTE:   The Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery may be closed on short notice depending on participation and catch rates.  Anglers are advised to check the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500 or Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website daily.

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.

Idaho hatchery to boost endangered sockeye

FISHING – Construction on a once-abandoned sockeye fish hatchery project in eastern Idaho intended to bolster Idaho’s breeding program is back on schedule, Idaho Fish and Game officials said.

The $13.5 million Springfield Fish Hatchery between Aberdeen and Blackfoot should be finished by November.

Hatchery manager Doug Engemann said the hatchery is intended to boost the number of endangered sockeye salmon returning to Redfish Lake near Stanley in central Idaho. The Bonneville Power Administration is paying for the hatchery that’s being built on a 73-acre site.

“We’re moving past the genetic conservation component of the program into a bonafide stock rebuilding, stock recovery program,” Engemann said.

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.

Sockeye first in 45 years to upper Deschutes River basin

FISHERIES — The first observed spawning sockeye salmon in the Metolius River in more than 45 years was reported on Sept. 27 by an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist. 

The Metolius joins the Crooked and Deschutes rivers in central Oregon’s Lake Billy Chinook above the Pelton-Round Butte hydro project, which has for that half century blocked upstream passage of anadromous fish – salmon and steelhead that are born in freshwater, mature at sea and then return to spawn in their natal streams.

The three rivers become the Deschutes, which flows about 100 miles downstream from the dam complex before entering the Columbia River.

Seet the Columbia Basin Bulletin's detailed report.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye on Labor Day agenda

 SALMON FISHING — Although the the season still could be closed on short notice, it appears as though Lake Wenatchee will be open to sockeye fishing through Labor Day, thanks to a record-busting run to the upper Columbia River.

About 50,000 sockeye have turned into the Wenatchee River of the 63,000 predicted to make this year's run to Lake Wenatchee. Going into the past weekend, anglers had caught only about 7,000 of their 23,000 quota.

The daily limit hs been bumped from three to five sockeye 12 inches in length or greater.

Fish counters have tallied a whopping record of 515,666 sockeye over Bonneville Dam, the first hydro project the fish encounter on their run from the Pacific into the Columbia River. That shatters the previous  record of 386,505 in 2010.

The count at Rock Island Dam on the mid-Columbia is 410,498 sockeye. Rock Island is the seventh and final dam the sockeye climb before a portion of the run turns into the Wenatchee River.

Most Columbia sockeye continues upstream over Rocky Reach and Wells dams before heading up the Okanogan River. More than 363,200 sockeye had been counted at Rocky Reach last week. That’s more than triple the 10-year average count.

The Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery could be closed on short notice depending on how many fish anglers catch this week.

Anglers are advised to check daily the Fishing Hotline at 360-902-2500 or the Fishing Update Web page.

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.   

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.”   

Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery opens Saturday

SALMON FISHING — The boom of sockeye this year has prompted the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to hold a sockeye fishings season on Lake Wenatchee starting Saturday. 

Read on for the details from WDFW.

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. 

 

Record sockeye run possible in Upper Columbia; season opens Sunday

SALMON FISHING – After several record daily sockeye counts over Bonneville Dam this week, fisheries managers’ expecations for overall record returns of sockeye salmon to the upper Columbia River are high.

The salmon fishing season in the upper Columbia above Priest Papids Dam opens today.

By mid-July, Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists expect summer chinook and sockeye fisheries to have kicked into high gear.

Check the status of incoming adult fish through the interagency Columbia River Data Access in Real Time (DART).

Chris Donley, a local fish biologist and salmon slayer, highly recommends watching the numbers on that website to see when the fish start piling into the upper Columbia fisheries.

 When you get to it, click on “Adult Passage,” then scroll through dates to bottom and today for latest on all species (also compares with past years’ numbers).

Anglers set all-time record steelhead harvest on lower Columbia

FISHING — The estimated 9,800 hatchery summer steelhead kept on the lower Columbia River so far this month — through Aug. 22 — is an all time record not just for August but for any month since at least 1969, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has just reported. 

The previous record of 8,549 steelhead was set last month. 

A good run along with river flows that are higher and cooler than normal appear to be favoring the anglers.

MEANTIME, about 30,000 steelhead have run up the Snake River and climbed over Lower Granite Dam. They're coming at the rate of about a thousand a day.  Anglers are enjoying good catches of steelhead in Idaho's Clearwater River.

And, as the graph above shows, the big numbers are yet to come.

No Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery this year

SALMON FISHING — The return of sockeye salmon to Lake Wenatchee is not strong enough to allow a recreational fishery in the lake this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced.

Although more than 185,000 sockeye have passed Bonneville Dam this year, only about 14,000 of them are expected to enter Lake Wenatchee, said Jeff Korth, WDFW regional fish manager in Ephrata.

That is well short of the 23,000-fish goal for spawning escapement in the lake, Korth said.

“We know this is disappointing news for anglers, especially since the lake has opened for sockeye fishing for the past three years,” Korth said. “But the number of sockeye counted between Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams is low, and very few are entering the Wenatchee River.”

While the overall run of sockeye to the Columbia River has been relatively high, most of these fish appear to be headed for the Okanogan River and on into Canada, Korth said.

“The four- and five-year old sockeye that make up the bulk of this year’s run to Lake Wenatchee were spawned in years with very low sockeye abundance,” Korth said. “So there’s good reason to believe returns will improve in the years ahead.”