Lake Wenatchee Sockeye

by John Kruse, August 09, 2020

Anticipation is running strong for the Lake Wenatchee sockeye season opening August 3rd. This season is never a sure thing, always dependent on the number of salmon returning up the Wenatchee River to this wood-lined lake in the Central Cascades and there have not been enough salmon returning for a season to take place for several years.

That changed this year with a strong run of sockeye coming up the Columbia River, about 11 percent better than the ten-year average. Travis Maitland, a biologist with the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, says an estimated 35,000 sockeye are coming to the lake this summer, far surpassing the 23,000 salmon required to meet spawning escapement goals for this species. Because of this surplus we get a season running until September 7th with a four fish daily limit.

There are a few things you should know about the Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery. First off, you won’t be catching any sockeye out of this lake from shore, this is a boat show and unless you own property on the lake (or know someone who does) you’ve only got two options about where to launch.

The main launch site is at Lake Wenatchee State Park (Discover Pass required) and boats start lining up to launch when the fishing is hot as early as 3 AM. There is a good launch here but it is crowded and this year, with Covid-19 restrictions at Lake Wenatchee State Park, that may pose a problem.

Because of overcrowding, staff have been closing all entrance into the day use area of the park (by vehicle or foot) once the day use parking lot is full. Speaking with Park Ranger Trevor Wylie about whether this was going to be an issue for anglers and visitors he said he didn’t think it would be because most of the anglers are launching at 4 AM and are off the water and leaving the park by 10 AM, which is when the bulk of day use visitors begin to arrive. The one user group that could have a problem accessing the park would be anglers hoping to fish in the late afternoon or early evening.

Another option if you have a car topper boat is to launch at Glacier View Campground (Forest Service Recreation Pass required). There is limited space to park at the day use area here but it is close to the northwest end of the lake where the fish, and most of the anglers, congregate.

As for catching sockeye here the first two weeks of the season are definitely the best and early morning is the time to be fishing for them. Bob Loomis with Mack’s Lure out of Wenatchee knows this fishery well and recommends:

Looking for the sockeye around 40 feet deep to start and going deeper as the morning progresses.

Troll slow. If you are trolling at 2 ½ miles an hour you are going way too fast. Cut that speed in half and you’ll be in the zone.

Use a dodger. An 8” dodger will provide not only plenty of flash, but also give action to the lure. Loomis recommends a silver or pink dodger.

The traditional offering behind your dodger is a bare red hook (selective regulations are in effect with only a single barbless hook allowed and no bait). However, Loomis recommends fishing a Mack’s Lure Double Whammy Sockeye Pro which adds beads and a red mylar Smile Blade spinner to that red hook or a Mack’s Cha Cha Sockeye lure with a squid body for better success. The go to colors? Red and hot pink.

One other trick specific to this fishery is to use a short leader. Loomis recommends a leader length of only 7 to 18 inches between the dodger and the hook to combine the most attraction and lure action.

Put it all together and you’ve got a great primer on how to catch sockeye salmon this August in one of the more scenic areas of the state to do so!

John Kruse – and


Kimberly Loomis holds up a limit of sockeye she and her husband Bob caught out of Lake Wenatchee. Photo Courtesy Bob Loomis


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