*Sharper Hooks*
*Tighter Lines*
Sockeye Salmon




Information & Facts

Species Namesockeye(1)
Sockeye salmon
(Oncorhynchus nerka)

Common Names
Red salmon, blueback, kokanee or "silver trout" (landlocked form)

Size Range
5-8 lbs, up to 15 lbs


Sockeye are the most flavorful Pacific salmon.

Sockeye are unique in that they require a lake to rear in as fry, so the river they choose to spawn in must have a lake in the system. This seems to be the most important criteria for choosing a spawning ground, as sockeye adapt to a range of water velocities and substrates. sockeyefresh

Large rivers that supplied sufficient room for spawning and rearing historically supported huge runs of sockeye, numbering into the millions. One such run still exists today on the Adams River in British Columbia, a tributary to the Fraser River. The Canadian government has built viewing platforms for visitors, and annual runs of over a million sockeye are common.

Juvenile sockeye rear for one or two years in a lake, although they are also found in the inlet and outlet streams of the lake. Sockeye fry are often preyed on by resident lake fish, and because they use freshwater year-round, they are susceptible to low water quality.

How to fish for Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon feed on zooplankton (such as copepods, euphausids, ostracods, and crustacean larvae), larval, small shrimp, small fish and occasionally squid. Most angler caught Sockeye salmon are under 6 pounds.
Upon entering the sea young Sockeye fry migrate directly offshore and do not return to the coast until returning to spawn.. Because of this fishermen only catch Sockeye as migratory adult fish in the months of July to early September. Many fishermen target Sockeye by trolling along the coast and in the bays, estuaries and river mouths in these months.

Sockeye salmon have traditionally been the hardest salmon to catch in saltwater. There are specific techniques for Sockeye salmon. The first rule is RED, any red lure, even just a hook painted red or a red bead on a hook. The second rule for Sockeye salmon is less is definitely more, rip out at least every second frond of a hootchie. Sockeye target plankton and krill (euphasiid shrimp) and this probably accounts for the preference for pink and for small lures. Sockeye salmon are far more stimulated by flashing light than other salmon. Consequently, the third rule with Sockeye is use as many flashers in the water as possible. Tie 10 feet of leader to a flasher and attach it to your downrigger ball and then attach your fishing line 10 feet above the flasher. Alternatively, stack more than one fishing line per downrigger. 
Sockeye are known for following lures a great distance which is probably why almost all sockeye are caught by trolling lures. Because of this, strikes can be triggered by changing lure action, make tight turns every few hundred yards, take the boat in and out of gear and alter trolling speed.
For a good all round Sockeye set up use a 8 to 9 foot medium action rod with a star drag conventional reel spooled with 15 pound braided mainline. Tie on a barrel swivel to your mainline and on the other end tie on 10 feet of 15 pound fluorocarbon leader. Use fluorocarbon leader as it is invisible underwater. Tie your lure directly to your leader. 

While the river Sockey fishery was evolving, so were the techniques used to catch the fish. Bottom bouncing has become far and away the most popular method of catching Sockeye this time of year. The set up for bottom bouncing for Sockeye is unique and is incredibly effective. Truly the only requirement to catch Sockeye this way is that they actually be there in reasonable numbers and even beginners will experience good results! The fishing gear required to bottom bounce is pretty standard stuff. A 1O.6 ft graphite steelhead rod and levelwind reel is the typical river set up will be perfect. If you are new to river fishing and don't have such a outfit, a medium action spinnig rod and reel in the 8 to 9ft range will also get you started just fine. The termanal tackle or rigging required is very simple but must be set up correctly for best results.

First and formost is the main line. This is the fishing line that is stored on your reel. Do not go cheap here, when it comes to fishing line buy quality or you will be sorry. A 50lb to 65lb test braided line is perfect for mainline, 150 to 225yds capacity will be required, especially if you hook a big Spring. The next item in line is just a basic swivel, size 8 or 6 will be just fine. Attached to the swivel will be the weight, this choice is not as simple as it seems. 1 to 3 ounces depending on depth and current speed will be required, but the style and selection is a bit more confusing. There are several different types of weights on the market that work well for Sockeye fishing in a river. First is standard pencil lead, its cheap and versatile. Pencil lead is purchased in 1 lb coils. This means weight selection is unlimited because you just cut off the amount desired and attach it to your line. Pencil lead sticks with preinstalled eyelits are also available.

The next type is called slinkes. This is parachute cord with lead or steel shot pushed inside, the ends are heated shut and a snapswivel is installed at one end for attachment purposes. Slinkes work very well in snaggy areas because they do not hang up as much as other weight systems but they do not have as much bottom "feel" as some other styles of weight.

The next style of weights are called "bottom runners" or "bouncing betties" These round weights are probably the most popular and effective in use on a river. There are actually two distinct types available, lead and composit, both have advantages and disadvantages. First the lead weights. These weights are smaller in size than the composits. This can be good in the faster water where 2 or 3 ounces may be required because the lead weights get down very quickly. In the morderate runs where only 1 ounce is required, the small 1 ounce does tend to hang up more often than the composite style. In moderate and moderate-fast water, the composit weights work very well and have tremendous bottom "feel". 1 to 2 ounces are the most popular in this stye.

Next on the list is the leader. The leader should be one or two line rating less than your mainline, 20lb test is perfect. Choose a high quality, abrasian resistant, stiff mono for this job. Leader length should be between 6 and 12 feet, yes! I said feet not inches this is very important. The lure on the end of your line will be made up of either Spin 'n' glows, corkies and/or yarn, so don't worry too much about the color, as long as its mostly green. Size 12 or 14 is perfect for the spin 'n' glo and corkies.

Last on the list is the hook. Standard barbless steelhead style hooks are perfect, size 1/0 to 3/0 work fine. Remember, as with line, you get what you pay for. Buy quality hooks, its worth it.

Finally, now that we have our bottom bouncing set up all ready, how do we fish it? Well it is not all to difficult but will require some practice to fully master. Basicly you will want to make your cast slightly up stream, then immediately pick up your slack line, but do not retrieve. Allow your gear to bump along the river bottom. While your gear is travelling along the river bottom, follow its direction with your rod tip and hold your rod at about 45 degrees, as your line starts to flow past you can feed additional line out to extend your drift if there is room. After you have gone about 25 yards, then retrieve and repeat as necessary. When you are first getting started don't worry too much about feeling the bite or take of the fish. It is very subtle and for the most part this will take care of itself as the rod will just bend over and get heavy and the fish is on!

River Sockeye fishing is unique in that this is an abundant fishery, so retention of fish is permited and this is a good thing. There is nothing better than enjoying a fresh sockeye with family and friends that you actualy caught yourself. As anglers we have a responsibility to make sure that the fish we retain are not wasted. Here are a few tips to make sure your catch makes it home in prime condition. Once you have caught a Sockeye and have dispatched it, cut or pull out a gill from both sides of the fish. This will allow the fish to completely bleed out. Bleeding stops any bruising and improves the quality of the meat. Allow about ten minitus to properly bleed out the fish. As soon as the fish is finished bleeding then clean or dress the fish immediately. Once the fish is properly dressed out, you must store it on ice in a cooler.

The reality of living in a populated area is that when the weather is warm and there are lots of fish around, the people just seem to come out of the woodwork! The fact is, you will probably be fishing with other anglers, in some cases, lots of other anglers. In peak season, 3000 to 5000 anglers per day will fish the Fraser river for Sockeye. The good news is that the Fraser is huge and there is room for all. Here are a few tips to help everyone to get along. First, treat everyone else as you would like to be treated. Second, don't crowd out the person fishing in the spot you wanted. If he or she is there first go somewhere else or wait your turn. Third, parents don't let inexperienced children fish in crowded conditions, it causes nothing but havoc. Fourth, anglers be patient with inexperienced children, even if they have just snagged your line for the tenth time in a row .Its not their fault that their father is more concerned about catching fish himself than teaching them how to fish properly. Fifth, leave the ghetto blaster at home!! AC/DC or Metalica is not part of a quality fishing experience. Sixth, pick up and pack up your own garbage! Your mamma is not here to pick up after you! Remember, the Fraser belongs to all of us, a little common sense and mutual respect will make for a great days fishing for all.

Do the Sockeye in a river actually bite?, or are all of them flossed or lined? Well, the answer is yes and no. First, what is flossing or lining? This is the practic of swinging a long leader (6 to 10ft) along the bottom of the river with the intent of having that leader swing through the mouth of the fish swimming upstream. When the leader swings through the mouth of the fish, it is followed by the hook, which then gets pulled into the corner of the fishes jaw. First, is this legal or is this just snagging? Snagging, by the letter of the law, is described as the intent to hook a fish in a part of the body other than the mouth. Lining or flossing is designed to hook the fish in the mouth, so technically, this is legal. Any fish that is unintentionally snagged should be quickly and carfully released as keeping a fish that has been foul hooked is illegal and unethical. Second, will Sockeye bite a lure? The answer is yes, but when you consider the conditions in which we are fishing in the Fraser where the water visability is approximately 6 to 10inches and the water where the Sockeye are caught most often is fairly fast. Sockeye only get about a 1/2 second to see and react to a bait. So some sockeye do bite, but yes the majority are definately flossed or lined. Some people feel that this type of fishing is unethical, because of the conditions in the fraser there is a place for this technique here, but in other clear water rivers where Salmon run and the conditions make it possible to fool a fish into biting your lure, this would not be ethical. Basicly, this is a personal decision, but most anglers have decided to accept this style of fishing and enjoy this tremendous fishery that many BC rivers have to offer.

Over the past seasons it seems that the Sockeye season has been bogged down in controversy and political nonsence. Well thats because it has! The D.F.O has a habit of making political decisions, not necessarily the right decisions. All we can do at this point is hope for the best and wait for the word. Your local tackle shop should be up to date as to when the fishery opens and to the retention limits of the various Salmon species.

It has been very interesting since the fraser river was opened to Sockeye fishing... to say the least. This fishery has changed not only the sport fishing industry but to some degree the summer lifestyles of the anglers who fish it. This is an amazing fishing experience. With warm weather and plentiful silver fish, its no wonder why Sockeye season is so popular. One thing is for sure, whether you love it or hate it, and most anglers love it, there will not be a cure for the Sockeye fever of the Fraser river any time soon.