The sockeye salmon can be one of, if not the most numerous salmon, that migrates through our waters. In 2014, over 20 million sockeye moved through the Fraser river from late June into early October!
Sockeye salmon are highly prized because of their beautiful silver condition and deep red flesh. They are commonly netted in the ocean, at the Fraser’s confluence in the Strait of Georgia, and the Fraser river itself, including the Fraser’s tributaries (Harrison river, Chilliwack lake etc.) The average size of a sockeye is consistent near the 6 – 8 pound mark, but larger sockeye do exist in the Fraser.
The normal diet of sockeye in the ocean consists of zooplankton, a small organism that is extremely abundant and occurs in vast pods, but cannot be easily seen by the human eye.
The sockeye fishery is generally an August fishery but is not consistently open as sockeye runs fluctuate heavily from one year to the next. Openings are not guaranteed, nor known about too far in advance. However, it is a fishery that is heavily participated when open due to the ease of which fish are captured.
The sockeye fishery and its methodology (bottom bouncing or “flossing”) is not a selective fishery. Any fish, from chinooks to sockeye to even a pike minnow can be hooked with this method. As a result, this “fishing technique” has become a popular methodology for other species, on other rivers. This unselective technique is a negative impact to our fishery. However, despite numerous attempts by many, including ourselves, to make improvements to the sockeye fishery that will reduce impacts, improve and enhance sport fishing in the Fraser Valley and even improve the sockeye fishery itself, little has changed since the fishery first started in 1993. It could be said that the only change has been the enormous increase in anglers during the sockeye openings over the last 20 years. Discussions have been had for years with concerned anglers, yet our government agencies responsible both federally and provincially, along with fishing related groups, clubs and the fishing industry itself (both tackle retailers and guides) are loathe to recognize changes are needed.
Hopefully, meaningful discussions will occur where all stakeholders will sit down and recognize changes are needed – it will greatly improve all aspects of Fraser river angling, including the sockeye fishery itself.