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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

September 27, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Cedar River sockeye spawning egg take already more than double of what it was last year

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Now that the sockeye watch has ended at the Ballard Locks, many are focusing on their return to the Cedar River.

“We are off to a good start,” said Frank Urabeck, a member of the Cedar River Council and longtime sport fishing advocate.

Urabeck says broodstock collection began at the Renton fishweir/trap on Sept. 6, which is a few days earlier than last year.

“It has been going pretty well with nearly 740,000 (sockeye) eggs in hand as of Sept. 18 versus about 340,000 for same date in 2011,” said Urabeck who mentions the goal is to produce 20 million eggs this year.

Urabeck says the one concern this season isthe possible drought and adverse impacts on spawning salmon, and subsequent juvenile production “may be the story we all need to begin thinking about.”

About exactly one year ago it was a time to celebrate as the $7.9-million permanent hatchery facility opened its doors on the upper stretch of the Cedar River just below Landsburg Dam.

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So after a great unexpected strong return of 145,815 this summer compared to the preseason forecast of 45,871, the hopes to boost sockeye runs in the near future might become a reality sooner than later.

A temporary hatchery in place since 1991 had the capacity to produce 17 million fry, but only did it once during that period. The permanent hatchery could produce 34 million fry.

That temporary hatchery made sport and tribal fisheries possible in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006.

In 2006, a return of 470,000 sockeye allowed an 18-day sport fishery, and was a big shot in the arm of the economy for all related industries.

Since then sockeye runs have dropped nearly to all-time lows, and this summer’s return of 44,000 was well below the 350,000 needed to meet spawning escapement before any type of fisheries are allowed.

(Photos taken by Mark Yuasa)

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