Over the past 6 years we’ve had a remarkable Sockeye fishery in Osoyoos Lake. This Columbia River stock is starting to return in record breaking numbers thanks to the hard work of the Okanagan Nation Alliance Fisheries Department and DFO. This year (2014) it is forecasted to be a record run of Sockeye with over 200,000 Sockeye returning to the Okanagan Valley!
This Osoyoos Sockeye fishery is by far one of the most unique fisheries within BC and there really isn’t another one like it in Canada. When fishing for Sockeye in Osoyoos Lake anglers are literally fishing for Salmon in the desert! So how does one go about targeting these fish and what gear is needed? The BC Fishn’ Team has learnt proven methods on how to target these fish over the years with much success. In this article we are happy to share some of our tips and techniques on how to catch these stunning Okanagan Sockeye!
The trolling angling method for Sockeye is very similar to Kokanee fishing; however the size of terminal tackle is slightly increased. Here is what you need to get you started:
- Silver Mack’s Lure Double D Dodgers (7.6″ inches long)
- 8-15 inch 20 pound test monofilament leader
- OR: Gibbs UV Flashers with 18-20 inch leaders
- 2-3 inch pink UV hoochies
- Red barbless hook (size 3/0 and 4/0)
- Krill or Shrimp UV Scent
- It is important to use shorter leaders between your dodgers and hoochies when Sockeye fishing. Many anglers make the mistake of fishing for Sockeye like Chinook salmon with long leaders greater than 3 feet long! Leaders between 8-15 inches is best when fishing dodgers, 13 inches has proven to me over the years to be the magic length! When fishing Flashers then go a bit longer of a leader from 18-10 inches.
- Be sure to use heavy pound test for leader material as Sockeye will chew up the leader line quickly. 15 pound test and over ideal. Either Mono or Fluorocarbon can be used; you will find that Fluoro will not have to be re-tied as much as it is a bit more abrasion resistant than mono.
- Red hooks work the best hands down when Sockeye fishing; like Kokanee, Sockeye love red and pink colours! Carry size 3/0 and 4/0 hooks in your tackle box, mainly 3/0 hooks work best but sometimes when getting into bigger fish it is nice to be able to switch up to a 4/0.
- Pink hoochies are by far the most proven lure for Sockeye. I prefer to use UV coloured as they keep the contrast of the lures colour deeper within the water coloumn. 2 ½ to 3 inch hoochies work best. Be sure to trim the skirt of the hoochie back enough so the hook point is exposed as this makes for better hook sets.
- Some anglers use bait such as marinated shrimp; however adding scent like Krill or Shrimp onto the hoochie works well and will deliver results.
- The key to Sockeye fishing is SLOW trolling! Trolling speeds between 1mph up to 1.9mph is the prime. Usually in the early morning slower speeds pay off and once the sun becomes higher in the sky a trolling speed around 1.5-1.7mph can be productive. If your boat can’t slow down enough try pulling a bucket or drift sock behind the boat to create enough drag to slow the vessel down.
- “S” Turns will help attract the Sockeye to your lures and entice them to bite. The erratic action the turn creates sometimes triggers the fish to attack your lure.
- The use of “dummy dodgers” or “false flasher” will help lure the sockeye in as these fish are schooling fish.
- When hooked up do not stop the boat as usually if one is following your tackle another may be right behind it. Double headers are a common scenario when Sockeye fishing.
Due to the higher temperature water conditions near the surface (70F+) these Osoyoos Sockeye can experience mortality rates as high as 90% when exposed to the increased water temp. It is recommended NOT to play catch and release with these fish. The Sockeye will be residing in water between 45-60 feet of water where the water temp is below 55F; which is a comfortable temperature for them. If an angler catches one of these fish, reels it up into water temp over 55F it does ‘shock’ the fish and increased mortality rate is a possibility. So even if the fish is let go with the best handling practices, it may swim away but has a good chance of experiencing mortality later due to the shock of water temperature. It’s best to keep the fish and put it into your cooler and not to release it. Remember to obtain your Non-Tidal Salmon Tag before hitting targeting these fish.
The BC Fishn 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. BC Fishn 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 the return of these Sockeye have a special cultural and historic significance for the Okanagan people 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. If you would like to hire a charter for a day of Osoyoos Sockeye fishing check out Okanagan Nation Guided Fishing Adventures!
This Sockeye fishery is a great opportunity to take the family and kids out for their chance at catching a magnificent salmon right in their backyards! Good luck and don’t forget to send us your pictures or post them on our BC Fishn Facebook Page!
Tight lines & take a kid fishing!