New Record Bonneville Sockeye Count Set Sunday

The tail end of the 2024 Columbia sockeye run whacked away the old record count of the salmon at Bonneville Dam yesterday, hitting 665,972 fish through Sunday, July 7.


That tops the previous high mark of 663,253 set just two years ago, and with daily tallies still in the low quintuple digits, this year’s run will only pad its count as the last Lake Wenatchee, Okanogan/Okanagan, Yakima and Snake River fish straggle up the big river over the coming weeks.

A graph from the Fish Passage Center shows how the run far exceeded both last year’s return and the 10-year average. The preseason forecast called for 401,700, a figure that was updated to 568,000 on June 27. Later today, the US v. Oregon Technical Advisory Committee, or TAC, is expected to provide another runsize update.

Other years with large runs include 2014 (614,179) and 2012 (515,673). Counting at the dam began in 1938.

Most of these sockeye are heading for the Canadian side of the Okanogan/Okanagan River, thanks to reintroductions and fish passage work earlier this century.

Along with a bumper run, this year will be remembered for the closure of sockeye fishing on the Columbia from the mouth up to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco in late June by state managers due to “regulatory constraints and conservation efforts.” Catches exceeded the number of sockeye available for harvest, a rule designed to protect ESA-listed Snake River fish – they of Lonesome Larry fame – and the prioritized steelhead fishery.

A concern managers may have in the coming days is how hot the Columbia gets as the heatwave continues. Yesterday, the river at the Bonneville Forebay hit 68 degrees, right at the upper edge of the species’ tolerance, but most of the run is already well upstream, so the fish shouldn’t be trapped to the degree that 2015’s run was by June-July heat and low flows that year.

On the flip side, with the Okanogan River running at 75 degrees, sockeye will hunker in the 58-degree waters of the Upper Columbia’s Brewster Pool and provide good fishing there. An article by Jeff Holmes in our July issue – out now and available digitally – details the scene.