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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

June 18, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Lake Washington sockeye returning, but sport fishery is highly unlikely

The Lake Washington sockeye watch has started, and while a summer sport fishery is doubtful all are hopeful that their return will be better than predicted.

“Right now it is tracking a little higher than last year,” Mike Mahovlich, a Muckelshoot tribal biologist said in an email. “Let’s hope it continues on this same pattern.”

The pre-season forecast for Lake Washington sockeye is 19,300, and well below the spawning escapement goal of 350,000.

The estimate is based primarily upon fry production from the spawning adult sockeye in 2005 and 2006. Since lake and marine survival rates are highly variable from year to year, the actual return this summer could be higher or lower.

On June 14, 475 sockeye were counted at the Ballard Locks fish ladder viewing window, and on June 15, 628 more fish had passed up.

So far, 2,425 sockeye have been counted at the locks since the tracking began on June 12.

The last time Lake Washington has a sockeye sport fishery was in 2006, which generated the largest catch since 1996, and was a big moneymaker for the sport-fishing industry and other related businesses.

In 2006, the sockeye run was estimated at 472,000, leaving a surplus of 122,000 for harvest, of which 59,000 were caught by sport anglers.

The surplus was split between sport and tribal anglers.

Sport anglers made about 63,800 trips and averaged just under one sockeye (0.93) per rod. The fishery was open for 18 days — the most days of fishing since 1996, when sport anglers caught about 70,000 sockeye over 23 days.

With the purchase of gear, fuel and other angler essentials, coupled with the ripple effect of those out-of-pocket expenses, state Fish and Wildlife estimates the 2006 sockeye fishery provided about $8.6 million in economic benefits to the area.

Other years when sufficient adult sockeye returns created sport fisheries in the lake was 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004.

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