Sockeye salmon
For information on sockeye and other salmon and steelhead stocks see:
Recreational Salmon Fishing
Salmonid Stock Inventory (SaSI)

River Sockeye in Puget Sound

Most known sockeye salmon populations are associated with lakes where the juveniles rear for one or two years before going to sea. However, small groups of sockeye are occasionally observed spawning in Washington river systems that do not have suitable lakes. Though the observations are often a single occurrence, there are several locations in Puget Sound rivers where small numbers of sockeye are known to spawn on an annual basis. These sockeye have been assumed to be strays from lake-rearing sockeye populations or perhaps kokanee offspring that had gone to sea. Recent research by the National Marine Fisheries Service has shown that genetic samples from sockeye from the upper Skagit, Sauk, and Nooksack Rivers display no relationship to any known lake populations. However, they appear to be genetically similar to known sockeye populations in British Columbia, Alaska, and Russia that use off-channel river habitat (river type) or marine waters (sea type) instead of lakes for juvenile rearing. Although the rearing habitats of the Washington populations are in most cases unknown these local sockeye populations are labeled as "river" sockeye here for convenience.

Locations in Puget Sound drainages where sockeye are observed to spawn on a regular basis include the North and South Forks of the Nooksack River, the lower Samish River, the upper Skagit River near Newhalem, the upper Sauk River, the North Fork Stillaguamish River, the Wallace River (a Skykomish tributary), the Green River, the Skokomish River, and the Dungeness River. River sockeye have also been observed in coastal river systems but the genetics of these fish is unknown. The numbers observed at any one time in a single location are low, usually less than one hundred individuals. Because these fish are found in such low numbers in Washington it is premature to make any definitive statements regarding distribution and genetics. It is possible that Puget Sound river sockeye are part of one wide ranging west coast population.