Recreational sockeye fishery opens Friday on Osoyoos Lake

Recreational sockeye fishery opens Friday on Osoyoos Lake

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By Richard McGuire

Special to the Chronicle

The recreational sockeye salmon fishery on Osoyoos Lake opens Friday, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has announced.

Fishing is limited to the North Basin, the portion of the lake north of the Highway 3 bridge, and a limit of two sockeye per day may be retained, DFO said in a fishery notice issued Wednesday afternoon.

Fishing is only permitted during daylight hours and fishers must comply with licensing and other rules.

The sockeye fishery officially opens on Friday, Aug. 3 at one minute past midnight, but fishing can’t start until daylight.

It closes at one hour after sunset on Monday, Aug. 13.

A review of in-season information on sockeye abundance, harvest and environmental conditions on the lake will take place on Aug. 13 to determine the duration of the fishery.

This year numbers of sockeye are up from last year’s disastrous migration, which resulted in cancellation of the recreational and commercial sockeye fishery on Osoyoos Lake in 2017.

As of Tuesday, 151,028 sockeye had passed Wells Dam south of Brewster, Wash. this year, according to the Fish Passage Center in the United States.

Wells Dam is the last dam on the Columbia River before fish turn up the Okanogan River near Brewster to make the final journey to Osoyoos Lake.

Last year at this time, barely 41,000 sockeye were recorded at Wells Dam. The number of fish migrating to this point is used to determine if there will be a fishery, and a minimum of around 80,000 has been a guideline.

In the banner year of 2014, 490,000 sockeye passed the Wells Dam, and the 10-year average has been around 200,000.

The recreational sockeye fishery was also closed in 2015 due to drought conditions and high water temperatures, which killed many sockeye during their migration.

Last year’s low numbers were attributed to low marine survival rates, as fewer fish entered the Columbia River.

This year, 193,516 sockeye were recorded passing the Bonneville Dam near Portland, Ore. as of Aug. 1. That compares with just slightly more than 87,000 at this time last year.

DFO staff met with the Okanagan Nation Alliance and the Mid Fraser Thompson Okanagan Sport Fish Advisory Committee on July 27 to discuss planning for Okanagan sockeye, DFO said. They agreed on a collaborative fishing plan.

Although sockeye are present in Skaha Lake, fishing for them there is not permitted.

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