OLYMPIA – For the first time since 2004, anglers fishing from the Columbia River estuary upstream to Priest Rapids Dam will be able to catch and retain sockeye salmon, fishery managers for Washington and Oregon announced today.
Starting June 21, anglers will be able to retain sockeye as part of their daily catch limit for adult salmon during fisheries for summer chinook salmon above and below Bonneville Dam. The daily catch limit is two adult salmon per day.
Below Bonneville Dam, the sockeye fishery will run June 21-28, concurrent with the summer chinook fishery from the dam downriver to Rocky Point/Tongue Point. Above Bonneville Dam, anglers can retain sockeye and summer chinook salmon up to Priest Rapids Dam through July 31.
Fishing for hatchery steelhead also remains open on the Columbia River up to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.
“Not only do we have large numbers of sockeye salmon returning this year, but they’re biting,” said Cindy LeFleur, Columbia River policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Usually sockeye ignore the lures and just sail upstream.”
That hasn’t been the case during the past week, when the lower Columbia River has been open for hatchery steelhead fishing, LeFleur said. A surprising number of anglers fishing for steelhead – and shad, too – have reported catching and releasing sockeye salmon, she said.
“It’s most likely a combination of the high water and the large run,” LeFleur said.
LeFleur said this year’s sockeye run to the Columbia River is now expected to far exceed the pre-season forecast of 75,600 fish. As of June 18, a total of 50,900 sockeye had been counted moving past Bonneville Dam, with more than half of run expected to arrive in the weeks ahead.
More than 11,300 sockeye passed the dam on June 18 alone, representing the highest daily count since 1985. That daily count also exceeded the sockeye return for the entire 1995 season.
LeFleur noted that sockeye salmon, which average about 3½ pounds, “make for excellent dinner fare.”