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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 18, 2012 at 10:05 AM

Lake Washington sockeye counts waning, but still well on its way to being a good return


The Lake Washington sockeye returns are fading as many had predicted, but still well above the preseason expectations.

Through Tuesday, July 17 the inseason count is now up to 130,565 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; July 15, 1,211; July 16, 587; and July 17, 1,082.

Fisheries managers and those keeping a close eye on the sockeye returns are saying it will end up being somewhere around 150,000 and 200,000.

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.

It is highly unlikely there will be 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 6,614 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 260,140 sockeye, which has now surged way ahead of the counts so far this summer. That year, 470,000 sockeye allowed an 18-day sport fishery.

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

This summer’s return appears to be tracking similar to 2010 when at this same time frame 133,065 had returned. The final tally that season was 161,417.

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 many are hoping to get 20-million from this summer’s return.

(Photo by Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff reporter)



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