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

Columbia River Sockeye

Sockeye salmon in the Columbia Basin have declined substantially from historic levels. Historic runs were as large as 3 million fish. Most of the original production of sockeye occurred in nursery lakes located in the uppermost reaches of the Columbia and Snake River basins. Upstream passage was blocked by the construction of several key dams including: Grand Coulee Dam (completed 1941) in the upper Columbia system; and by Swan Falls (1901), Sunbeam (1913-1934), Black Canyon (1914), and Brownlee (1958) dams in the Snake system. Landlocked sockeye salmon, commonly called kokanee, are still produced in many of the areas that formerly contained anadromous runs. Currently, anadromous populations of sockeye originate almost exclusively from natural production in the Wenatchee and Okanogan basins.

The anadromous run of sockeye in the Snake River has been reduced to a remnant run in Redfish Lake. In December 1991, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed Snake River sockeye as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The 2008 Snake River sockeye return was 983 fish to the mouth of the Columbia River and was a large improvement over recent years. The 2009 and 2010 returns to the Columbia River were 1,625 and 2,596 fish respectively. Escapement over Lower Granite Dam (the uppermost Snake River Dam) was 1,406 in 2009 and 2,406 in 2010. The pre-season forecast for 2011 is 2,100 fish.

Sockeye salmon in the Columbia River return as age-3, age-4, and age-5 fish with peak passage over Bonneville Dam around July 1. Spawning occurs in September and October. Juveniles normally rear in a freshwater nursery lake for at least one full year before migrating to the ocean. Columbia River sockeye are the southernmost sockeye run in North America.

Non-Indian and treaty Indian commercial fisheries for sockeye occur when the escapement goal of 75,000 at Bonneville Dam has been achieved and sufficient surplus is available for fisheries. Treaty Indian fisheries are limited to 5%-7% of the run and non-Indian fisheries are limited to 1% of the run to protect Snake River sockeye.

The 2011 preseason forecast for sockeye in the Columbia River is for a return of 161,900 fish. Retention of sockeye will be allowed in non-Indian sport and commercial fisheries and treaty Indian fisheries targeting summer Chinook. An in-season run size update will be made in mid-to-late June, based on Bonneville Dam counts. Daily and cumulative counts of sockeye at the Columbia River dams are available at

Lake Wenatchee Sockeye

Recreational fishing opportunity for sockeye in Lake Wenatchee is dependent on having harvestable runs. Recreational fisheries for sockeye occurred in Lake Wenatchee during the 1980s and early 1990s, and most recently during the 2008, 2009, and 2010 seasons. The fishery would typically open in early August and remain open until the harvestable surplus is taken.

The escapement goal at Priest Rapids Dam is 65,000 sockeye. Turn-off into Lake Wenatchee is measured by subtracting the Rocky Reach Dam count from the Rock Island Dam count. On average 50% of the sockeye run has crossed Rock Island Dam by about July 13 and Rocky Reach Dam by July 17. Although no escapement goal is formally established for the Wenatchee system, the past objectives were to have 23,000 fish reach the spawning grounds after fisheries.

Based on harvest estimates of prior years, it is expected that a fishery in Lake Wenatchee would harvest about 16% of the Wenatchee River run. Therefore, a return of about 27,000 sockeye in the Wenatchee component would be required before opening a sport fishery. The preseason forecast is for 33,000 Wenatchee River origin fish to return to the Columbia River in 2011.