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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

June 25, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Lake Washington sockeye continue to stream into the Ballard Locks

LakeWashingtonSockeye1.jpg

The Lake Washington sockeye continue to return in relatively strong numbers.

Through Sunday, June 24, 31,368 sockeye have been counted at the Ballard Locks, which just under the preseason forecast of 45,871 in just the first 13-days of counting. Usually peak counts vary each year, but occurs between July 7 and July 15.

The single-day counts are: 1,633 fish on June 12; 687 on June 13; 532 on June 14; 2,183 on June 15; 3,062 on June 16; 1,724 on June 17; 1,515 on June 18; 2,241 on June 19; 6,421 on June 20; 3,548 on June 21; 1,839 on June 22; 1,883 on June 23; and 4,100 on June 24.

During this same time frame in 2006, 24,030 sockeye had returned, but the bulk ended up surging in quite later than normal. That year, 470,000 sockeye allowed an 18-day sport fishery.

Other fisheries occurred in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004.

The big urban lake has an escapement goal of 350,000 sockeye before any fisheries are considered.

Pat Pattillo, assistant to the director of state Fish and Wildlife said in an interview late last week that there is still a lot of discussion for looking at different ways to manage the sockeye fisheries, and they’ve invited scientists to talk about modifying the goals.

He says there has also been a lot of discussion with the tribes, and all have interests for the fisheries.

“It is a complicated thing, and we’re very much engaged and thinking about how to manage the wild fish and take advantage of the hatchery fish,” Pattillo said.

“We need to reexamine that goal, and see if it can be lowered to 200,000 or 150,000 fish,” Frank Urabeck, a longtime sport-fishing advocate and Cedar River Council member said. “It’s an involved process that needs to be addressed between the tribes and state. If we can lower it then we’ll be a lot closer to having more fisheries in the future.”

Since 2006, sockeye returns have dropped close to historic lows, and the run last summer ended up at about 43,000.

Back in 2009, the sockeye fry entered the lake in low numbers so this summer’s adult return wasn’t expected to be that good.

One positive factor is these fish could be reaping benefits from an excellent ocean and freshwater conditions.

The new permanent hatchery on the Upper Cedar River just below Landsburg Dam can produce more than 34-million fry, but last year it only got 25 percent of that figure from spawned adult sockeye.

(Photo by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff reporter)

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