Huge Slug O’ Sox Hits Bonnie

Well, here’s one way to jump the editor’s sleepy eyebrows: Second highest daily count of sockeye EVER at Bonneville Dam yesterday — 25,011.

That according to Joe Hymer of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The count goes back to creation of the dam in 1938.

“The record is 27,112 fish on July 7, 1955,” Hymer writes in an email to fish hounds, scribes and others this morning.

So far, 82,057 have gone over Bonneville; the preseason forecast calls for 110,300 back to the Okanogan River, 14,300 to the Wenatchee River (too few for a Lake Wenatchee fishery) and 600 to Idaho.

No season has been declared, but in our July issue, we talk about what’s behind the large returns and how to fish them on the Brewster Pool:

Reports Leroy Ledeboer:

SO WHAT’S BROUGHT about this remarkable story? John Arterburn, fisheries biologist for the Colville Confederated Tribes, stationed in Omak, says we can’t focus on a single entity.

“Actually, five factors have come together,” he says. “First, up in Canada they’ve been doing several things right. They have a new fish management tool in place, which essentially gets water managers to talk over critical decisions with fisheries managers, and make decisions that don’t harm our resource. Instead, they work together to make sure both sides come out OK.

“Then the Okanogan Tribal Nations Alliance has been running a big hatchery program at Skaha Lake, raising and releasing hundreds of thousands of juvenile sockeye every year.

“Skaha is above the current fish barriers. Juveniles can get out, but adults can’t re-enter. Eventually, they may change that, simply by removing the barriers, which would create lots of new spawning and rearing habitat, but now it’s all out of Osoyoos, the next lake downriver.

“But that’s been the third real positive. We’ve had very good natural production out of Osoyoos in recent years, primarily because so many adults have returned. So between Skaha’s artificial production and Osoyoos natural production, tons of juveniles have been heading out to sea each spring.

“Then, the fourth factor, when they get out into the ocean, conditions have been favorable, so here again survival rates have been high, leading to these good returns.

“And finally, our sockeye have a weak commercial harvest. They can’t really be targeted in the Lower Columbia because Snake River sockeye are on the endangered species list, and once our fish get past that confluence, there’s very little netting.”

Plus sockeye tend to come in a big pulse, arriving by the thousands, swamping the gillnetters, but then they keep moving, Arterburn adds.

“Yeah, netters might load up for a few days, taking hundreds, but then the sockeye are gone, and it’s a real small percentage of the total.”

ANGLERS TOO HAVE a hard time targeting these delicious little salmon – that is until they stack up in the Brewster Pool, primarily at that broad mouth of the Okanogan. In recent years, 2008 gave us a partial season while last summer’s run brought with it a relatively generous four-adult-fish limit.

Anyone who has repeatedly targeted those huge Chinook in this pool knows that a 2-pound sockeye will whack a mighty big target, a hefty cut-plug herring, a tuna stuffed Super Bait or even an oversized FlatFish with a sardine wrap.

But now, even after only a couple of seasons, sockeye techniques are emerging that work particularly well in the pool …

The July issue should be hitting subscribers as early as the end of this week and early next week!

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