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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

June 28, 2012 at 9:08 AM

Baker River sockeye return could be higher than originally forecasted

Tackle shops are having trouble keeping their shelves stocked with sand shrimp, the hot bait for sockeye in the Lower Skagit River as “sockeye fever” has inflicted plenty of anglers.

“Sockeye fishing has been reasonably good, and while it’s not red hot a few guys dialed in have been getting their limits,” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “The river (water level) is really high, and we’ve got a lot of snowmelt right now.”

Bank anglers averaged one sockeye for every 10 hours on the water, and boat anglers had less luck as most fish are hugging the shore.

Baker Lake where many of the Skagit sockeye will eventually end up also opens Sunday, July 1, but this won’t turn on until mid-July. Through Monday, 321 fish have been trapped and 168 transferred up to the lake.

“I’d wait until there are several thousand fish in the lake, and up until them there isn’t going to be much action,” Barkdull said.

These fish are part of a return of 35,366 headed for the Baker River, a tributary of the Skagit.

“We are on pace to reach the predicted run size, and I have no reason to believe anything else, and it may be even higher than we thought,” Barkdull said.

Tackle shops from Lynnwood to Mount Vernon have been selling sockeye gear and bait faster than they can stock it.

“We can’t keep the sand shrimp in stock, and it has been this way for a while,” Chamberlain said. “Everyone has sockeye madness, and it has been a great fishery in the Lower Skagit.”

“I think the run size is greater than what the state anticipated by the number of fish were hearing about, and that might bode well for the Baker Lake fishery next month,” Chamberlain said.

The Lower Skagit River is open through July 15 for sockeye.

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