Sockeye salmon are commonly regarded among the best tasting salmon species. The frequent appearance of the fish in grocery stores and restaurants are testaments to that fact. In Lake Washington, in Washington State, sockeye fishing is productive. The fish are considered easy to identify among other salmon species. In the ocean the fish is chrome, but in inland waters the body turns red and the head turns green. Males often have a large hump on the back. Although the species is highly valued among commercial fishing operations, sport fishermen have long enjoyed the catch.
The sockeye season begins in April and runs through October. Do not expect to fish the ocean for sockeye after the first two months of the season, as nearly all the salmon will have, by that time, entered the freshwater for spawning. Freshwater fishing in Lake Washington is productive throughout the season. In 2004 the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recorded fishing data for a two and half day period in July and found that 28,000 anglers fishing during that period caught approximately 27,600 sockeye salmon.
According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the morning hours typically yield the best results for sockeye salmon fishermen. The most productive times to fish for sockeye are between 7 and 10 a.m. Like many fish species, salmon prefer cooler waters to warmer ones. As the sun gets higher and more intense, the warming shallow water zones drive the salmon further away form shore to deeper waters, making them more difficult to catch. The sunlight, as well as an increase in fishing rigs mid-day, reduce the productivity for the rest of the day. Under cloudy conditions, however, salmon may bite throughout the day and continuing into the evening.
Trolling is the most effective method of fishing for sockeye salmon, preferably less than two miles per hour. Trolling at a slow speed and turning off the engine periodically to coast is sometimes required to maintain the necessary speed to catch the salmon. If you are having trouble maintaining a slow speed, steer your boat in an S-shape. This will slow the tackle gear in the water, according to Tom Nelson of Salmon University.
As the day progresses gradually troll in deeper waters. The sun will begin to chase the fish from the shallower waters and you must follow them at a rate of about 10 feet per hour.
Although there was a time when more complex lures were used for sockeye fishing, it was discovered in the 1980's that a single bare hook in either red, blue or black effectively attracted the sockeye. This lure is thought to resemble the plankton such as shrimp that sockeye typically feed on. Tie several of these hooks to a steel leader and keep the gear in the water as you land your catch to hook multiple fish.