Impact of the 2015 Drought on Columbia Sockeye

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you are aware of the drought conditions and hot weather here in Washington State and along the west coast.  In addition to a run on fans and AC units in the stores, we’ve seen fisheries get closed or restricted.

This year we’ve had a Columbia sockeye run which has exceeded pre-season estimates and promised to be a great season.

But due to the low hot water we are seeing disappointing results.

Sockeye movement up the Columbia has essentially halted.  Of the almost 500k sockeye which have gone over Bonneville Dam only half have reached Rock Island dam.

Since the water for the fish ladders come off the top of the water column, I imagine that the fish don’t want to enter the ladders.  Instead they are likely bunched up in the deeper spots of the river where they might find relief from the heat.

The fish that have entered the Wenatchee River are seeking refuge in cooler tributaries – which can’t support that many fish and will also warm up.

We are starting to see reports of dead and infected fish, as well.

Hopefully we’ll get a block of colder weather and some rain in time for enough fish to reach their spawning grounds.  Otherwise we’ll be feeling the effects of this drought years down the road as minimal spawn and egg survival lead to poor future returns.

For those who are fishing for sockeye at places like Brewster Pool, Wells Dam or Baker Lake, don’t forget to check out these sockeye fishing tips and tricks.

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