It is still a wait and see kind of thing for a possible Baker Lake sockeye fishery.
No sooner than I contacted Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist in the North Puget Sound region he responded: “Sockeye I bet.”
Well “yes sort of,” I responded as he laughed.
“We are still not there yet on opening it up,” Barkdull said. “The sockeye are trickling in and we haven’t had a big day of seeing many fish. (On Monday) there was 343 counted and (Tuesday, July July 12) we only had 71.”
“When are they gonna show up? I don’t know just yet, but it could be any day not,” he said.
Through July 12, 3,331 sockeye have returned to the Baker fish trap, and 804 have been transferred to Baker Lake. The sockeye forecast this summer is 23,954.
Last summer, 14,239 were counted at the Baker trap, and 22,500 actually returned (preseason forecast was 4,500). The fishing season opened July 22 through Sept. 19 – the first ever on the 3,100-acre impoundment in Skagit County.
Barkdull says fisheries will give folks at least a 48 hours notice of the opening.
Puget Sound Energy completed construction of a new fish hatchery and an advanced upstream trap-and-haul facility on the Baker River, increasing chances for a good return.
In the spring of 2010, an all-time high of more than 520,000 fingerling salmon, mostly sockeye, were transported downstream.
Since the 1920s, adult sockeye returns have averaged about 3,500. In 1985, just 99 fish returned. A cooperative fish-recovery effort produced a sockeye return of 20,236 fish in 2003 that was a record until last year.
The latest improvements should produce future sockeye returns substantially above last year’s mark, with the ability to generate 11 million salmon fry annually. Potential future expansion increases that number to 14 million. Biologists hope this will produce enough sockeye fry to eventually return 75,000 adults.
For more details on Baker Lake, go to state Fish and Wildlife website.