There is much excitement when it comes to Sockeye Salmon. Their unforgiving fight, acrobatics, and high-quality omega-3 packed fillets make them beloved by the angling community.
Sockeye Salmon Basics
Sockeye Salmon are also known in parts of their range as Red Salmon and Blueback Salmon. Their primary range is from the Columbia River northwards to Alaska’s Kotzebue Sound. However, their highest concentration is from the Columbia River to Bristol Bay. Sockeye require a lake within their natal river system for rearing. After they hatch, young Sockeye spend 1-3 years in freshwater before migrating to the Pacific Ocean. Sockeye Salmon return to their river system to spawn in summer and fall. Large numbers of Sockeye support vibrant commercial fisheries in Alaska, British Columbia and Washington State.
How to Identify Sockeye Salmon
In their ocean form, Sockeye Salmon have a blue back and silvery sides. They do not have any black spots as do Coho, Pinks and Chinook. They return to their spawning river. Then undergo a remarkable transformation. Their body turns deep red in color, their head turns green, and males develop a humpback. A lake, or the inlet or outlet stream is where they spawn.
Where to Find Sockeye Salmon
As Sockeye make the voyage to their home river, they school in large numbers. The Pacific’s inshore inlet, passageways and sounds host large schools of Sockeye. They migrate quickly up the river systems towards their spawning grounds, where they will wait until their biological transformation is complete and are ready to spawn. They can be found travelling up fast currents as well as the slower inside corners of the river.
Sockeye Salmon Fishing
Fishing for Sockeye is very different from other salmon species. Unlike the other salmon, Sockeye primarily eat Zooplankton. Traditional salmon tackle does not interest them. Successfully targeting Sockeye Salmon in saltwater is extremely challenging, although anglers in British Columbia have found downrigger trolling with multiple flashers (to emulate a school of Sockeye) and very small pink plastic skirts (to imitate krill and zooplankton), has been successful once a school is located.
River fishing can be successful, and conventional and fly anglers alike use small tufts of yarn or flies swung in the current. Whether or not Sockeye bite these presentations or simply get snagged in the mouth is up for debate, but it gets the job done. Lakes that have large populations of returning Sockeye offer a completely different type of experience. Boaters troll painstakingly slow with metal dodgers/flashers. Then a short leader and bare red hooks and trigger consistent bites.