Baker River Sockeye

Baker River Sockeye Salmon – 2018 Sport Fishing Seasons

In the preseason, WDFW and tribal biologists produced an estimated run size of 35,002 Baker Sockeye for 2018.

 Skagit River
  • Open from Hwy. 536 Bridge at Mt. Vernon (Memorial Hwy. Bridge) to mouth of Gilligan Cr.
  • Season: June 16 - July 15 (may close earlier if guideline is attained).
  • Night closure, no gear restrictions.
  • 3 fish limit.
  • Closure dates to be determined.
 Baker Lake
  • Season: July 7 - Sept. 7
  • 3 Fish Limit

Closures from the mouth of the Skagit River to the Hwy. 530 Bridge at Rockport to avoid conflicts with treaty fisheries will be posted to Emergency Rule Updates.

For more information see WDFW Fishing Regulations Pamphlet.

Baker sockeye are native to Baker Lake and Baker River, a tributary to the Skagit River. Baker sockeye have been exported to other waters of the state including Lake Washington. Artificial enhancement began in 1896 when the state built a hatchery on Baker Lake. The natural run at that time was estimated to be approximately 20,000 fish. Lower Baker Dam was constructed in 1925, creating Lake Shannon, which blocked access to the lake. A ladder and "elevating contrivance" was constructed to provide fish passage. Adults were released above the dam to spawn naturally.

Construction of the Upper Baker Dam, completed in 1959, inundated the valley that included the natural Baker Lake. Artificial spawning beds were constructed at the upper end of the new Baker Lake to mitigate for loss of natural spawning beaches. These "beaches" were first used in 1957. Newly refurbished sockeye spawning beaches were finished in 2010 located at the new hatchery facility.

The entire escapement of adults is now trapped below Lower Baker Dam and transported above the dams. Some are placed in the artificial spawning beaches, some are used for hatchery production, and others are released into Baker Lake to spawn naturally. Natural spawning takes place for the most part in seeps and springs at the head end of the lake and in the lower Baker River. Sockeye may also enter other tributaries. Fry from the artificial spawning beaches and from hatchery production are released into Baker Lake and Shannon Lake, where they rear naturally. At the smolt stage, sockeye are captured at both dams and released downstream below Lower Baker dam to complete their seaward journey.

Adult Baker sockeye enter the trap from mid-June to mid-October. Numbers peak in mid-July. Spawning occurs from mid-September through December, peaking from late September to late November.

Recent research indicates that a significant portion of the kokanee salmon or "silvers" taken in the Baker Lake sport fishery may in fact be "residual" sockeye. These are offspring of sea-run parents that have not gone to sea after a year of rearing in freshwater and may spend their entire life in a lake. True kokanee are self-sustaining freshwater populations. Successful spawning by residual sockeye or kokanee has not been documented in Baker Lake although individuals presumed to be residuals have been observed with adult sockeye in spawning areas.

Improvements in the smolt trapping and transportation system at the dams have contributed, at least in part, to the rebound of the Baker sockeye stock from a long decline, and the population is now increasing. The numbers of adults returning to the Baker Trap since 1971 are presented in the table below.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) employees operate and maintain facilities at the Baker River Project under the directives of WDFW and tribal co-managers. The facilities include floating surface collectors for juveniles located on Baker Lake (completed in 2008) and Lake Shannon (completed in 2013), a new fish hatchery, an upstream trap-and haul facility, and a sockeye spawning beach. Total sockeye counts and the number of sockeye transferred to Baker Lake, current as of the date shown, are updated frequently throughout the run.


Baker River Sockeye Salmon Trap Counts by Year
Year Trap Count
1970 821
1971 2,931
1972 10,031
1973 3,656
1974 3,611
1975 1,303
1976 1,518
1977 1,707
1978 2,716
1979 865
1980 499
1981 208
1982 1,869
1983 735
1984 358
1985 99
1986 542
1987 683
1988 818
1989 536
1990 1,977
1991 480
1992 2,443
1993 3,818
1994 15,991
1995 2,181
1996 7,769
1997 7,099
1998 13,187
1999 4,654
2000 10,384
2001 4,942
2002 4,021
2003 20,235
2004 9,106
2005 3,191
2006 8,325
2007 2,763
2008 3,211
2009 6,486
2010 14,239
2011 27,195
2012 28,410
2013 12,534
2014 13,788
2015 31,928
2016 24,989
2017 16,704


2018 Baker River Trap Counts
Counts have not started for 2018

Sockeye salmon


For information on sockeye and other salmon and steelhead stocks see: