Life history traits of wild animals can be strongly influenced, both phenotypically and evolutionarily, by hunting and fishing. However, few studies have quantified fishery selection over long time periods. We used 57 years of catch and escapement data to document the magnitude of and trends in gillnet selection on age and size at maturity of a commercially and biologically important sockeye salmon stock. Overall, the fishery has caught larger fish than have escaped to spawn, but selection has varied over time, becoming weaker and less consistent recently. Selection patterns were strongly affected by fish age and sex, in addition to extrinsic factors including fish abundance, mesh size regulations, and fish length variability. These results revealed a more complex and changing pattern of selective harvest than the ‘larger is more vulnerable’ model, emphasizing the need for quantified, multi-year studies before conclusions can be drawn about potential evolutionary and ecological effects of fishery selection. Furthermore, the results indicate that biologically robust escapement goals and prevention of harvest of the largest individuals may help prevent negative effects of size-selective harvest.