Another robust sockeye salmon return will allow a sport fishery to begin this Saturday (July 23) in Baker Lake for the second consecutive summer.
Last year’s sockeye opener was the first ever on the 3,100-acre impoundment in Skagit County.
“We had 1,188 sockeye return (on Monday), and have met our escapement goal so everything else now goes into the lake for a fishery,” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
The sockeye fishery will be open until further notice, anglers will be allowed to keep three adult sockeye daily from Baker Dam to the mouth of the Baker River. Sockeye must be longer than 18 inches.
All other salmon must be released, and no fishing will be allowed between the dam and the log boom at the lower end of the lake.
The lake has excellent access points, and the two largest boat launch and parking facilities are the Kulshan Campground and Forest Service’s Horseshoe Cove. Others are Panorama Point, Baker Lake Resort and Shannon Creek.
Through Tuesday, July 19, 8,285 sockeye have returned to the Baker fish trap, and 3,600 have been transferred to Baker Lake. The sockeye forecast this summer is 23,954.
“We expect that number to continue to increase as we approach Saturday’s opener,” Barkdull said.
Last summer, 14,239 were counted at the Baker trap, and 22,500 actually returned (preseason forecast was 4,500). The fishing season opened last summer from July 22 through Sept. 19.
As for tactics to catch sockeye, Barkdull says to go with what was best last summer.
“I would start with where you left off last year as for the gear type used,” Barkdull said.
The pink mini hootchie squid seems to be one of the go-to things to use, and some were also catching them on kokanee gear or Smile Blades with a couple of red beads down on a leader then baited the hooked with a piece of pink dyed shrimp.
The traditional two bare 2/0, 3/0 or 4/0 red, blue, pink or black hooks on a short 9- to 12-inch leader trailed behind a 0-size chrome dodger also worked and caught its fair share of fish.
The best area last summer was in the middle of the lake or right off Noisy Creek.
The preferred depth will be 30 to 45 feet, and to your boat troll very SLOWLY.
Last year the thing that might have made it tough to fish (especially with colored bare hooks) is the lake had a bit of glacial color. It was a whitish/bluish tint of color.
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.