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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

June 27, 2012 at 9:31 AM

No end in sight just yet for Lake Washingon sockeye returns

LakeWashingtonSockeye1.jpg

The sockeye numbers keep climbing in Lake Washington with the second largest one-day count so far this summer occurring on Monday.

Through Tuesday, June 26, 38,971 sockeye have been counted at the Ballard Locks fish ladder, which falls just short of the preseason forecast of 45,871 in just the first 15-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; 4,100 on June 24; 5,823 on June 25; and 1,780 on June 26.

During this same time frame in 2006, 33,407 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.

Anything can happen at this point, but one person who has been keeping an eye on the Lake Washington sockeye stock for many years says by extrapolating from the 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 runs would produce estimates for 2012 of 140,317, 90,435, 279,835 and 149,462, respectively.

He predicts the this summer’s Lake Washington sockeye run would be between 100,000 and 150,000.

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

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. A run above 100,000 this summer could raise the bar in production number of spawning fish at the new facility.

(Photo by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff reporter)

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