Fraser River, some of the worlds biggest salmon runs?
The Fraser River is known for its large salmon runs, averaging between 15 to 50 million salmon per season. Most of this fish are returning between June & November with 5 species in total. This year being an even numbered year, there will be no Pink Salmon on the Fraser River. June, July & August is best for Chinook Salmon ( Kings). Late July, August is best for Sockeye, September is good for late summer Chinook and October brings the Coho (silvers) & Chum Salmon. This year should turn out to be another great year.
A quick look at 2005 sockeye salmon fishery
Understanding pre-season predictions.
With most river systems, we take a good look at previous years salmon runs. We look at migration periods, run sizes, ocean survival and then try to predict what will happen the following year. Unfortunately this often leads to false hopes and expectations. More often than not, fisheries staff will predict a record run only to have their predictions thrown back in their faces. We then begin to question their science and ability to predict salmon run sizes. This is not something new; its been going on for decades. The trouble is that they are wrong so often; they now keep their numbers close to their chests, often playing down run sizes to keep face in light of a poor return.
2005 was a great year
2005 was a great year for most salmon stocks returning to the Fraser. If you ask those anglers who planned their vacation around the sockeye fishery, you might get another story. Sockeye returns on the Fraser River in 2005 were estimated at 11 to 13 million fish. The final count was 11.3 million, which is pretty much what they estimated. The trouble is that they arrived 3 weeks late.
History shows that sockeye salmon and salmon in general return on a fairly consistent pattern. Their timing is very similar year after year, often returning within days of the previous years. Its like clock work for the most part.
This past year was the exception to the rule; fish stocks around the province were late arriving to their spawning grounds. It wasnt just sockeye that were late arriving. The trouble for fisheries is that sockeye is a prized salmon and all eyes are on them when fish are missing. It started out that everyone, including myself thought that this was going to be another case of the Missing Sockeye.
Fortunately for Fisheries Staff, the large predicted runs did show up, just a bit late. Although the sockeye fishery was short, it was fast and furious when we did get a crack at them.
For those of you who have fished the sockeye fishery in the past and would like to plan another trip in 2006, we would suggest you plan your trip around the more normal run timing for sockeye salmon. Although last year was off, you are best to plan around the more regular run timing of early to mid August.
Chinook Salmon, strong as ever, maybe better than ever?
Over the past 25 years of fishing the Fraser River for Chinook salmon, I dont think fishing has ever been better. The past 7 or 8 years we have seen incredible returns of Chinook salmon on the Fraser River. For many years we targeted the early run from May to late June, we then turned our efforts to other species. Now you cannot only fish for, but also catch Chinook salmon from May until November. The peak fishing period has gone from 6 weeks to 4 months and improving every year.
Back when commercial activity was big industry on the Fraser, Chinook salmon were the prized catch. I remember standing on the docks watching the boats unload tones of salmon of all sizes. As commercial activity increased, stocks of salmon decreased. Fortunately those days are long gone. Harbour docks that were once filled with fishing boats are now docking places for travelers passing by, local recreational boaters and some alternative life style live aboard vessels.
Timing is everything, planning your next fishing vacation for Chinook Salmon (Kings)
It truly is, timing is everything. Unfortunately our crystal balls only works to a certain point, then its up to mother nature and some luck. If you ask me, the best way to predict when to plan your next fishing vacation is to look at history. Pick the dates based on the previous 10 or 20 years, dont fall into the trap of what happened last year. Often it leads to disappointing results.
The best way to do this is to do your homework, read articles, pre-season forecasts and most of all, ask the locals or your fishing guide if you are hiring one. For Chinook Salmon there are several fisheries you can target. The most popular is the early summer run that begins in May, best fishing is between June 1 to July 15. Next is the summer run with good numbers of Chinook mixed in with the sockeye, best fishing is between August Sept 15. Last year some of our best Chinook fishing was last week in August to mid September. For those who would like to Fly fish for Chinook Salmon, best fishing is between early to mid October.
If youre confused by all the dates listed above, we are happy to help you with planning your next vacation. Our office is open 7 day a week, our e-mail and phone lines are always available to you for as much time as you need, let us do what we do best, provide you with a fishing trip of a lifetime. Please feel free to call or e-mail us with any questions or concerns.
Fall Coho runs way down
This past fall, Coho runs were as low as I can remember. Fishing for Coho was pretty much a waste of time. Sure we had some good days and some clients went home with some great catches but overall it was tough fishing. To make matters worse, the 2004 run was excellent, so those who came back to try again in 2005 were really disappointed.
Lots of back and forth blaming occurred, natives were the main target and maybe for good reason. Efforts targeting Harrison Coho with nets were at an all time high, at least it appeared to be. Many of the netting locations were prime sport fishing waters so that even made matters worse. Local and visiting anglers had a difficult time finding prime holding water as most of those spots were taken.
The good news was that the Chinook runs heading up the Harrison were very strong; we managed to change our focus from Coho to Chinook and came out smelling like a rose. We also did quite well catching Coho on the Fraser while fishing for Chinook.
Speculations fly as Coho dont show
The rumors were flying all over the place, most of the blame was placed on local native netting as this was one of the most aggressive fishing efforts most locals had ever seen. Most of the fishing/netting was targeting Chum heading up the Fraser into the Harrison, or so they say, but many of the Coho went into the tubs as well. I can tell you right now, that if asked, the numbers of Coho reported will be insignificant and probably so. Because even with the numbers taken by local native netting, Coho runs were way down. Rivers on the south side of the Fraser that were not targeted with nets were also down.
Most of the rivers along the west coast and mainland in SW British Columbia experienced late salmon runs and depleted Coho stocks. From what I understand, if ocean survival rates are low for any given year, Coho are impacted the most. The Vedder River and Chehalis, both with large hatchery programs were down as well. If you look at the poor smelt return, late sockeye runs and add the no show Coho, I think the picture become clearer. From everything I have read and listen to, it appears as though ocean temperatures and ocean survival could hold the key to last years unpredictable fishery. Hopefully 2006 will be back to normal.
Chum still # 1
Its becoming apparent that the Fraser & Harrison Chum runs are one of the few fisheries that we can consistently rely on. They arrive early October and keep coming until late November and even into December. Year after year, just like clockwork. Who would have thought 20 years ago, that anglers would travel across the world to catch Chum on the fly? These fish dont get much respect, but thats all changing.
Chum salmon seem to be one of those species that can adapt to conditions, much like the sturgeon. Regardless of ocean temperatures, ocean survival rates, landslides, water conditions, they just keep coming. Pound for pound, one of the strongest fighters in the salmon family. Best fishing is between October 15 & Nov 15.Tight Lines and see you on the water