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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

June 30, 2009 at 9:07 AM

Columbia River sockeye returns still strong, and Lake Washington sockeye figures show no surprises

The Columbia River sockeye return remains fairly strong for the second year in a row.

“It continues to rumble on, and there are still some sockeye being caught in the lower river,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Widlife biologist. “Our forecast is pretty close to prediction [183,200 sockeye] and that is looking good.”

The single day count at Bonneville Dam on June 27 was 11,404 sockeye; June 28 it was 10,114; and June 29 another 8,882 were tallied. So far this summer, 134,970 sockeye have been counted at Bonneville, and 55,737 sockeye have been counted at McNary Dam.

The Lake Washington sockeye watch also continues, but this summer’s return won’t generate what has been one of the most popular summer sport salmon fisheries in the Seattle area in past years.

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 28, 864 sockeye were counted at the Ballard Locks fish ladder viewing window, on June 27, 712 more fish had passed up, and on June 26, 546 were seen. The biggest single-day count was on June 22 when 1,126 were counted.

At this point 10,279 sockeye have been counted at the locks since the tracking began on June 12.

The last time Lake Washington had a sockeye sport fishery was in 2006, which generated the largest catch since 1996.

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.

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

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