Sockeye fishing expands on much of the Columbia River as returns exceed expectations

With sockeye salmon returning to the Columbia River in numbers well above the preseason forecast, fishery managers announced Thursday that sockeye fishing will open from the Astoria-Megler Bridge on the lower river to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco, and daily limits increase from there to Chief Joseph Dam near Bridgeport on the upper river.
With sockeye salmon returning to the Columbia River in numbers well above the preseason forecast, fishery managers announced Thursday that sockeye fishing will open from the Astoria-Megler Bridge on the lower river to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco, and daily limits increase from there to Chief Joseph Dam near Bridgeport on the upper river.

Additional summer Chinook opportunity also scheduled

OLYMPIA – With sockeye salmon returning to the Columbia River in numbers well above the preseason forecast, fishery managers announced Thursday that sockeye fishing will open from the Astoria-Megler Bridge on the lower river to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco, and daily limits increase from there to Chief Joseph Dam near Bridgeport on the upper river.

The U.S. v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, which forecasts and monitors salmon and steelhead returns to the Columbia River, earlier this week upgraded the 2022 forecast for sockeye returning to the river to 426,000, more than double the preseason forecast of 198,000 fish. Through June 29, the preliminary total sockeye count at Bonneville Dam is 343,953 fish, the highest count to date in the last 10 years.

As a result, fishery managers determined that sockeye retention could open starting July 1 on many portions of the lower river, and limits could increase in other sections previously scheduled for sockeye retention. Sockeye fishing is also scheduled to open July 1 on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers in Okanogan County.

“The higher-than-expected return is welcome news, both for the health of the sockeye population and for anglers throughout the Columbia,” said Quinten Daugherty, Columbia River fish biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “We’ll continue monitoring the return closely to make sure we’re meeting our conservation goals, but we’re optimistic that there will be significantly more opportunity to fish for sockeye in much of the river this summer.”

Following a one-week opening in mid-June, further allocation is available given the recently updated summer Chinook return expectation of 66,800 to the Columbia River mouth.  Anglers will also have an additional 13 days to fish for summer Chinook below Bonneville Dam.

Sockeye fishing on the Columbia River was updated for the following areas and dates; for more information on the rules for the specific section of river where you plan to fish visit WDFW’s emergency rules page. See the 2022-23 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for permanent regulations for each section of river.

  • Megler-Astoria Bridge to Bonneville Dam:
    • July 1 through July 13; Daily limit 6, up to 2 adult salmonids (hatchery Chinook, hatchery steelhead, sockeye) may be retained as part of the daily adult salmon and steelhead bag limit, but only 1 may be a steelhead.
    • July 14 through July 31; Daily limit 6, up to 2 adults may be retained, of which up to 1 may be a steelhead. Release wild steelhead and all salmon other than sockeye and hatchery jack Chinook.
  • Bonneville Dam to Highway 395 bridge in Pasco: July 1-July 31; Daily limit 6, up to 2 sockeye may now be retained as part of the daily adult salmon and steelhead bag limit in areas open to salmon retention.
  • Columbia Point (1/3 mile downstream of I-182 Bridge at Richland) upstream to I-182 Bridge at Richland: July 1 through July 15; Daily limit 6,Up to 3 adults may be retained, but only 2 may be hatchery Chinook. Release wild adult Chinook. This area is closed to angling from a floating device or by any method except hand-cast lines from the west shore (Richland side of the river).
  • I-182 Bridge at Richland upstream to boundary markers 650’ below the fish ladder at Priest Rapids Dam: July 1 through Aug. 15;Daily limit 6,Up to 3 adults may be retained, but only 2 may be hatchery Chinook. Release wild adult Chinook.
  • Priest Rapids Dam to Rock Island Dam: July 1 through Aug. 31; Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adult hatchery Chinook and no more than 4 sockeye. Release wild adult Chinook and coho. 
  • Rock Island Dam to Wells Dam: July 1 through Oct. 15. Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adult hatchery Chinook and no more than 4 sockeye. Release wild adult Chinook and coho. 
  • From Wells Dam to Highway 173 Bridge at Brewster: July 16 through Sept. 30; Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adult hatchery Chinook and no more than 4 sockeye. Release wild adult Chinook and coho. 
  • From Hwy. 173 Bridge at Brewster to the rock jetty at the upstream shoreline of Foster Creek (Douglas County side): July 1 through Oct. 15; Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adult hatchery Chinook and no more than 4 sockeye. Release wild adult Chinook and coho. 

In addition to the Columbia River, sockeye retention is also scheduled to open on sections of two Eastern Washington rivers beginning July 1, with night closures and anti-snagging rules in effect:

  • Similkameen River, from the mouth to the Hwy. 97 bridge immediately upstream of the mouth: July 1 through Sept. 15; Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adult hatchery Chinook and no more than 4 sockeye. Release wild adult Chinook and coho.
  • Okanogan River, from the mouth to the Hwy. 97 bridge immediately upstream of the mouth: July 1 through Oct. 15; Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adult hatchery Chinook and no more than 4 sockeye. Release wild adult Chinook and coho.
  • Okanogan River, from the Hwy. 97 bridge immediately upstream of the mouth to the Hwy. 97 bridge at Oroville: July 1 through Sept. 15; Daily limit 6, including no more than 2 adult hatchery Chinook and no more than 4 sockeye. Release wild adult Chinook and coho.

In all areas listed above, the salmon minimum size is 12 inches. Please visit WDFW’s emergency rules page for additional details on the rules for each of these river sections.

With the improved sockeye run, Lake Wenatchee is likely to have surplus fish for harvest later in the summer. WDFW will monitor passage of sockeye over Tumwater Dam and if the spawner escapement goal of 23,000 fish is sufficiently exceeded, a late-July or early-August season is possible. At least 28,000 sockeye need to enter into Lake Wenatchee before opening. Keep an eye on WDFW’s emergency rules page for updates.

Managers will continue to monitor returns and modify other fisheries as needed.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish, wildlife, and recreational and commercial opportunities.


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