One of the finest freshwater Sockeye fisheries in British Columbia is not found only in the lower mainland, but in the Okanagan in Osoyoos Lake. Thanks to combined efforts by the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), Nation Leaders on both sides of the border and Department of Fisheries, Osoyoos Lake is now experiencing Sockeye runs over 300,000 fish per year! In 2012 they estimate that over 500,000 Sockeye are going to return into the Columbia water system and 90% of these fish are expected to return to the Okanagan.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance and the department of fisheries are closely monitoring this fishery as their primary goal is to ensure there are salmon runs for the future generations. The sockeye salmon play an integral role in First Nation culture, not only as a regular food source but as a cultural and spiritual icon. The ONA deserves much credit for restoring this fantastic fishery!
Each year the ONA fisheries department and the BC Department of Fisheries reviews the expected Sockeye run numbers to determine if the Osoyoos Sockeye sport fishery will be opened. The first Sockeye sport fishery was opened in 2010 and has continued to this year, 2012. The opening can range from 10 days to 30 days, depending on fish counts and the number of returning Sockeye in the water system. This year (2012) the sport fishery opened on July 27th and will run close to 1 month with a daily fish limit of 2 per person. The fish will range from 3lbs to 6lbs, averaging 3.5lbs.
How to Fish for these Sockeye:
The BCFISHN Team had much success for these Sockeye by following traditional and basic Sockeye trolling methods.
- Flasher: Gibbs #1 silver-chrome dodger/flasher.
- Lure: Solid pink or red hoochies in the morning or during darker skies. Pink & white hoochies when the sky is bright.
- Leader: 13 to 18 inch leader between the flasher and hoochie. The shorter leader worked best in the early morning, as the water temp increased we increased our leader length.
- Hook: 4/0 Red Barbless Hook. We found that we had more success on a red hook than the regular silver hook.
- Weight: We used downriggers and straight line with 4 to 6 ounce weights. Less weight in the morning and more weight as the water temp increased. Approx 5 to 6 feet between the weight and the flasher.
- Trolling speed & pattern: Sockeye like slower trolling speeds. Troll between 1 to 2 mph. If you find that you can’t slow your boat down enough tie a bucket out of the back of your boat; we used our mop bucket! To help cover more depths troll in big ‘S’ patterns. Each time you turn the lure will sink deeper, most of your strikes will occur on the rod that is on the inside of the turn.
- Depths: The fish are found at all depths in the lake, from the surface to the bottom. We discovered that most of our success came from fishing depths between 30 to 65 feet. Shallower in the morning and as the temp increased we had better success trolling deeper. The water depths where we marked most of the fish were between 120 to 160 feet.
- Time of Day: We fished from 6am to approx. 11am each day. The best time to be on the lake is right when the sunrise makes its way up over the hill and starts to shine on the water.
The fishing boundaries where you can fish for Sockeye in Osoyoos Lake is from the Hwy 3 Bridge north towards the mouth of the Okanagan River. Before going fishing always check the updated regulations as these boundaries can change during season, like any other fishery.
Each time we went out fishing we determined the hotspot to be in the mid north east part of the lake, directly between the green packing house (west side of the lake) and the Nk’Mip Vineyards (East side of the lake). Check the attached photo gallery for Google earth map of the hotspot picture. Use your sonar to locate water depths between 120 to 160 feet deep. Near the north end of the lake there is a lot of foliage in the water and makes it somewhat difficult to troll as the lines become tangled in weeds; we did not have much success here.
Osoyoos is located at the junction of Hwy 3 and Hwy 97 S. The best place to launch your boat for a day trip is at the Osoyoos Marina in the heart of downtown Osoyoos. On the main street of Osoyoos as you head east, follow the main street to the bottom of the hill. The road turns right (Hwy 3 East) or left into residential and beach area of Osoyoos. Take a left at the interaction and you will find the boat launch less than 1km on your right. Many campgrounds such as Nk’Mip Campground and Haynes Point Campground also offer good boat launches.
Discover the Ideal Osoyoos Weekend Experience:
Osoyoos has so much to offer and the BCFISHN Team highly recommends to anyone that is planning to visit the area to take the time and discover this beautiful Okanagan community with the ideal weekend experience.
Here is a suggestion of the perfect weekend itinerary:
Friday: Arrive and check into a fine resort such as Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort and Spa. Take in a fantastic evening at the resort by taking full advantage of the resort amenities. Enjoy a first class dining experience with stunning views over the vineyards and orchards above Osoyoos Lake at the Mica Restaurant.
Saturday: Time to go fishing! If you are thinking of exploring this fishery consider booking a guided Eco-Fishing trip! The Okanagan Nation Alliance and BC Sportfishing have teamed up to provide fishing charters on Osoyoos Lake. Enjoy a 4 hour Sockeye fishing adventure in the morning (or many other fishing excursions) offered by Okanagan Nation Guided Fishing Adventures. During your fishing charter with the Okanagan Nation Guided Fishing Adventures you can fish the entire 4 hours. If you catch your limit of Sockeye you have the opportunity to keep fishing as the additional Sockeye over your limit are turned over to the Osoyoos Indian Band. These fish will then be sold at the market outside the Nk’Mip Cultural Centre along with many other local market items. These fishing charters are very exciting, educational and you get the chance to learn all the tricks from some of BC’s premier fishing guides! On the tour you will also learn about the First Nations’ knowledge of the Sockeye Salmon as well as the land, legends and the people.
In the afternoon after a superior morning of fishing this is your perfect opportunity to discover the Osoyoos wine country by touring the wineries on the Black Sage Rd and the Golden Mile. Be sure to visit the onsite Nk’Mip Cellars!
Sunday: Before departing for your trip home be sure to visit the Nk’Mip Cultural Centre. This state of the art interpretive centre allows you to discover the fascinating stories of Canada’s only desert and share in the rich living culture of the Okanagan people. A must see experience when in Osoyoos!
Thank you to the Okanagan Nation Alliance!
The BCFISHN Team’s opinion is that Osoyoos Lake is one of the finest fisheries in British Columbia! This fishery offers a world class bass fishery (small & large mouth), fantastic trout fishing and now a first-rate Sockeye Salmon fishery. Please be sure to respect these waters and always leave it in better condition than how you first discovered it. BCFISHN would like to give a sincere thank you to the Okanagan Nation Alliance and to all those who were involved for their hard work and efforts in bringing back this marvelous Sockeye fishery. We greatly appreciate and recognize that this Sockeye fishery is a novelty and should in NO WAY be taken for granted. We wish for all of our fellow community of anglers to share the same support, respect and recognition towards this fishery.
Good luck and enjoy this world class fishery! Don’t forget to send us your pics or post them on our BCFISHN Facebook Page at facebook.com/bcfishn!
Tight lines & Conserve our Waters!
Danny & Spencer Coyne