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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

June 30, 2011 at 7:00 AM

No sockeye season … again

The runs of silvery sockeye through the Hiram Chittenden Locks are a bust, at only about 10 percent of a good year’s return.

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That’s one lonely sockeye at the fish windows at the Ballard Locks, where sockeye returns are way below what will be required for a sport fishery for the fifth year in a row. Mark Harrison, photo

So far only about 14,000 sockeye have entered the fish ladder at the locks, and only about 35,000 are forecast to make it back home this year, said Mike Schrumm, a fisheries technical assistant for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe who counts fish at the window. It takes a return of 350,000 fish to have a sport season for sockeye on Lake Washington, so barring a miracle, that’s not happening this year.

The run usually peaks over the Fourth of July weekend. The news is particularly disappointing given the record low return in 2009, Schrumm said. The hoped-for turnaround has yet to come for fish that regularly break anglers’ hearts. Big years in the past have left fond memories but angers’ love has been unrequited for some time.

To learn more about the plight of this fish and our city’s peculiar fixation with Lake Washington Sockeye, read my story in the Pacific Northwest Magazine.

After sputtering to 21,718 returning adults in 2009, the run rebounded a bit to 156,752 last year, raising hopes for a fishery this year. But it’s not likely.

Meanwhile the new $30.5 million hatchery — with double the capacity of the old one — on the Cedar River is due to begin pumping its first fish into the river this year after years of litigation and controversy.

The sockeye have made big rebounds before. The last sockeye fishery was in 2006. When or if there will be another is anyone’s guess.

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