Bonneville Fish Cam

Bonneville Fish Cam

Bonneville Fish Camera – VIEW NOW

Fish_Viewing_Bonneville_DamThe Bonneville Fish Cam can be very addicting! The link below will take you straight through to the Bonneville Fish Camera. This site shows what species of fish are migrating through the fish ladder of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. The lines you see are used by fish counters to determine if a fish is a jack salmon or an adult salmon.


The  Bonneville Fish Cam feed is updated every 10-30 seconds.

A fish ladder, also known as a fishway, fish pass or fish steps, is a structure on or around artificial and natural barriers (such as dams, locks and waterfalls) to facilitate anadromous fish natural migration. Most fishways enable fish to pass around the barriers by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps into the waters on the other side. The velocity of water falling over the steps has to be great enough to attract the fish to the ladder, but it cannot be so great that it washes fish back downstream or exhausts them to the point of inability to the journey.

  • Chinook jacks are smaller than 22 inches, the distance between the left line and right line.
  • Coho jacks are smaller than 18 inches, the distance from the middle line to the right line.
  • Other species seen on the bonneville cam feed include Steelhead, sturgeon, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, lamprey, shad, pikeminnow, & more!

Facts about the Bonneville Dam120627_Salmon_Returns_04

The dam is located 40 miles east of Portland, Oregon, in the Columbia River Gorge. The primary functions of Bonneville Lock and Dam are electrical power generation and river navigation. The dam was built and is managed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Electrical power generated at Bonneville is distributed by the Bonneville Power Administration. Bonneville Lock and Dam is named for Army Capt. Benjamin Bonneville, an early explorer credited with charting much of the Oregon Trail. The Bonneville Dam Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1987.

Fish you might see passing through the Bonneville Fish Cam

American Shad (Alosa sapidissima)

American shad are members of the herring family.  Adults average 15 to 17 inches in length and weigh two to six pounds.  They can grow as large as 13 pounds.  These Atlantic Ocean fish were introduced into the Sacramento River in 1871 and are now found as far north as Alaska along the Pacific coast.  Adult shad spend three to five years in the ocean.  Most return to spawn in open water in the Columbia River at age five.  Not all shad die after spawning and some may actually return to spawn up to five times during their lifetime.  Juveniles spend the summer in fresh water and migrate to the ocean in the fall.

  • Teardrop body shape
  • Deeply notched tail that forms a “V”
  • Several large spots along the back between the head and dorsal fin
  • Often seen in groups
  • Iridescent in bright light with large scales (like carp)
  • No adipose fin

When They Pass The Dams
Shad can be seen in the fish ladders on lower Columbia River dams from May to August.  The run peaks in mid-June.

Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Chinook (or King) salmon are the largest of the Columbia River salmon.  Adults average 22 pounds but many people frequently see 40 to 50 pound fish in the fish ladders at Bonneville Dam.Chinook salmon spawn in the late summer and fall and die.  In the spring, their offspring use the runoff provided by snowmelt to migrate to the ocean.  Fingerlings from the spring and summer runs may stay in the river up to one and one-half years before starting their downstream migration.  After spending two to five years in the ocean, the chinook migrate up the Columbia River to the stream where they were born.  There, they spawn and die, completing the cycle.

  • Large Size
  • Oval Body
  • Silver in color until close to spawning when the males turn a dark “dirty” maroon hue or red color.  The females become darker silver to almost black
  • Spots on the upper portion of body and on the tail or ‘caudal fin’
  • Crescent shape end tail
  • Black gum line

When They Pass The Dams
Chinook salmon pass the lower Columbia River dams between April and November in three runs:

  • Spring: March to June
  • Summer: June to July
  • Fall: August to November (most numerous)

The spring chinook run goes farthest upriver to spawn, the summer run doesn’t go as far, and most of the fall run stays in the lower Columbia tributaries though some stocks go into the Snake River and its tributaries.  Some fall chinook do spawn above the lower Columbia River, for example the fall Snake River chinook which has been declared an endangered species.

Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Mature Columbia River coho (or silver) salmon average six to 12 pounds and can grow as large as 26 pounds.Coho juveniles spend about a year in the stream where they were spawned and move out of those streams when they are three and one-half or four and one-half inches long.  They migrate to the ocean during the spring runoff.  Adults generally spend one to two years in the ocean before returning to spawn and die in the stream where they were born.

  • Coho is most often confused with the chinook
  • Long oval body
  • Silver in color until they are near spawning, when the male turns a brick-red color and the female becomes a dull bronze
  • Spots on upper portion of body and on upper tip of tail
  • Crescent shaped end of tail
  • White gum line
  • “Nose” protrudes over lower jaw as the fish near spawning

When They Pass The Dams
The coho go through the fish ladders of lower Columbia River dams between August and November, with the peak of the run during September.

Lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus)

The Pacific Lamprey has been an important fish in the Columbia River for centuries and is vital to Columbia River tribal fisheries. Lamprey have few natural predators.Lamprey look so much like an eel that people often call them “lamprey eels.”  These three-toothed lamprey are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater, grow to maturity in the ocean and return to the fresh water to reproduce.  They swim using a snake-like motion and rest by attaching to rocks with their suction-cup-shaped mouths.

  • Body shaped like an eel
  • Three-toothed suction-cup mouth
  • Skeleton make of cartilage
  • Life span of 7 years or more
  • Female lays between 34,000 and 106,000 eggs
  • Worm-like larvae (young)
  • Returning adult average size 22 to 28 inches

When They Pass The Dams
Lamprey can be seen in the fish ladders of lower Columbia River dams from June to August.

Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Mature sockeye salmon (commonly called blueback, silver-side, Alaska red, or nerka) average three to seven pounds but can get as large as 15 pounds.Unlike other salmon, sockeye require spawning grounds in streams flowing into or from lakes.  After sockeye eggs hatch in the stream, juveniles migrate to a lake and spend one to two years there before migrating to the ocean.  They will mature in the ocean and usually return to the same stream to spawn between the ages of two and five.

  • Metallic blue back with silvery sides
  • Spawning makes turn bright red with a green head and tail and a hump on their backs.  Females turn a similar color, but the body is a darker blotched red and has no hump
  • Fine black speckles are visible especially during spawning but are difficult to see in migrating adults when they are still bright (or silvery) when they return from the ocean
  • Almost clear tail and fins

When They Pass The Dams
The peak of this run can be found in the lower Columbia River in July, although sockeye can be seen as early as May and as late as August.

Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Steelhead are rainbow trout that migrate to the sea.  They average 10 pounds and can grow as large as 42 pounds.Unlike salmon, steelhead do not necessarily die after spawning and a few may spawn several times.  They spend from one to four years in the ocean before returning to their spawning streams.  Spawning occurs any time from late winter to late spring. Juvenile steelhead can spend from one to three years in fresh water before migrating to the ocean.

  • Long slender body (“torpedo” shaped)
  • Steel blue spotted back with silvery sides.  When close to spawning, both the make and female develop a pink to rose-red stripe down the sides (the “rainbow”) and get a slight olive green tint on the back
  • Squared-off end of tail with fine spots throughout
  • White gum line
  • Hatchery raised fish will have adipose fin (on back just in front of tail) clipped for identification

When They Pass The Dams
Steelhead can been seen throughout the year although most steelhead move past the lower Columbia River dams from July through September.  There are two runs of steelhead:

  • Summer: April through October
  • Winter: November through April

Many winter run steelhead spawn in the lower Columbia tributaries.  Summer run fish pass the lower Columbia River dams and migrate to the upper reaches of the Columbia and Snake rivers where they spend the winter and then move to their home streams in the spring to spawn.

White Sturgeon (Acipenser tranmontanus)

White sturgeon are commonly found above and below Bonneville Dam as well as throughout the Columbia and Snake rivers.  These fish like deep, cavernous areas and are bottom feeders.  Sturgeon are anadromous, which means they go from the ocean to fresh water to spawn.  If they are not able to get to the ocean they may successfully live their entire lives in fresh water.Although rarely seen in the fish ladders at Bonneville, many sturgeon are caught by anglers below the dam.  Their roe (eggs) are a delicacy and their flesh in tender and boneless.

  • Grey color with sharp bony plates (scutes) along the back
  • The skeleton is mostly cartilage
  • Toothless mouth protrudes from the underside of the head
  • Can live up to 100 years
  • Can grow to 20 feet longs and weigh up to 1,800 pounds
  • Contrary to popular belief, they do not change sex

When They Pass The Dams

Few sturgeon migrate through the fish ladders.  Anglers fish year round for sturgeon below Bonneville Dam.  There are a few live sturgeon (adult and juvenile) on display at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery.

Information provided by the US Army Corps of Engineers

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