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Sockeye Back in Force on Lower Columbia

by Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times, June 23, 2010

A pair of Sockeye Salmon Another huge sockeye run is coming back to the Columbia River, and there are a wide range of fishing choices on the ocean, sound, lakes, rivers and streams.

State Fish and Wildlife managers are meeting Thursday to decide whether to open the Lower Columbia for sockeye fishing, which has turned into a larger than expected return.

"We already have more sockeye (134,056 returned since Tuesday) over Bonneville Dam than forecast (125,200), and typically the run peaks around July 1," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

The 26,873 sockeye counted at Bonneville Dam Tuesday was the second highest single-day count since at least 1938. The record is 27,112 on July 7, 1955. By Wednesday another 25,128 were tallied.

A sockeye run of 214,465 in 2008 was the biggest since 1980. The largest was 318,900 sockeye in 1952.

The summer chinook and steelhead fishery in the Lower Columbia River remains decent at midweek.

"They're still catching them up at (Bonneville) and it is one of the better games in town," Hymer said. "Water flows are going up and down, making it difficult to fish, but the chinook counts at Bonneville are around 3,000 per day with some fish up to 40 pounds."

The ocean king fishery remains the best off Westport, and other ports like Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay were slow to fair at best.

"We had a fantastic outing (Monday) at Westport, and got four gorgeous (hatchery-marked) kings (20 to 24 pounds) about 10 miles northwest in 150 to 160 feet of water," said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association, who fished with U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks of Bremerton.

Catch rates last weekend dropped off at Westport, but had picked up this week. Last week, 2,267 anglers hooked 2,009 kings (0.76 fish per rod).

At Neah Bay, 646 anglers last week landed 87 kings (0.13); at La Push, 170 anglers had six kings (0.03); at Ilwaco, 230 anglers had 58 kings. All four coastal ports are open daily through June 30 for hatchery chinook only. Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay reopen July 1, and Westport on July 4.

More salmon opportunities start July 1, including the hatchery-marked king fishery from east of Neah Bay to Sekiu and Port Angeles, and San Juan Islands. King fishing opens July 1 in Hood Canal south of Ayock Point and the Hoodsport Hatchery zone. Central Sound is open for salmon; the northern portion of Central Sound is open for salmon catch and release.

Mark Yuasa
Sockeye Back in Force on Lower Columbia
Seattle Times, June 23, 2010

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