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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 16, 2012 at 9:39 AM

Lake Washington sockeye counts take a dip, but is nothing out of the norm

LakeWashingtonSockeye1.jpg

The Lake Washington sockeye returns continue to go up and down, but a fairly decent amount are streaming in daily.

Through Sunday, July 15 the inseason count is now up to 128,896 compared to the preseason forecast of 45,871.

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; 1,780 on June 26; 3,730 on June 27; 5,080 on June 28; 2,784 on June 29; 6,529 on June 30; 1,942 on July 1; July 2, 4,539; July 3, 5,765; July 4, 9,600; July 5, 6,133; July 6, 8,491; July 7, 6,098; July 8, 3,978; July 9, 6,335; July 10, 3,582; July 11, 5,362; July 12, 4,630; July 13, 1,602; July 14, 2,535; and July 15, 1,211.

“These are normal fluctuations you see in the run, and is a natural variation you get with sockeye,” said Frank Urabeck, a member of the Cedar River Council. “I think it is starting to dwindle down, but I bet it will still come in somewhere around 150,000 and 200,000. Just how it shapes up in the end we don’t know yet.”

Usually peak counts vary each year, but occurs between July 7 and July 15.

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

At this point it is highly unlikely we’ll get a sport fishery in the huge urban lake, and for sockeye anglers it might be better to make plans to go to Brewster on the Columbia River or head up north to Baker Lake where they just transferred close to 3,000 fish into the lake.

Every year since 2007 to 2011 we’ve hit the 50 percent mark of the run before July 7, and the only year it didn’t happen was 2006.

During this same time frame in 2006, the run was 207,443 sockeye, which has now surged way ahead of the counts so far this summer. The bulk ended of the 2006 return 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.

When this summer’s sockeye were in the freshwater environment as juvenile fish they encountered decent water conditions and no major flooding, which probably led to a stronger survival rate. Add to that good ocean conditions when they migrated out.

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.

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.

“The new hatchery facility got a 9-million egg take from last year’s sockeye return, and the hope is to get at least 20-million from this summer’s return,” Urabeck said. “I’d like to see it push up to 25-million or 30-million, but wherever it ends up it will be nice to get three or four times what we did last year.”

(Photo by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff reporter)

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