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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 3, 2013 at 9:12 AM

Lake Washington sockeye return climbs to 108,757 at Ballard Locks fish ladder

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(Sockeye at The Ballard Locks fish viewing window last Saturday, June 29)

The Lake Washington sockeye count continues to show no sign of letting up at the Ballard Locks fish ladder.

The updated run size of 108,757 sockeye through Tuesday, July 2 is still more than 30,000 fish ahead of the 2006 run during this same time frame, which was the last time a sport fishery was held in the large urban watershed. The preseason forecast this summer was 96,866.

Last summer’s return of 145,815 waxed the preseason forecast of 45,871, and more than 20-million fry were released into the lake earlier this spring.

State and tribal fish managers are meeting soon to possibly provide an inseason run size update, and the peak time is between July 4 and July 12.

At this point the forecast falls well short of the 350,000 spawning escapement needed before any fisheries can be considered. Some believe the return this summer will fall between 200,000 and 325,000. The 2010 fry outmigration from the Cedar River was only 17 million, and those would be the adults returning this season.

Single-day counts have looked like this since counting began on June 12 it was 2,778; June 13, 2,424; June 14, 1,285; June 15, 2,430; June 16, 3,081; June 17, 3,603; June 18, 3,851; June 19, 4,638; June 20, 2,961; June 21, 3,296; June 22, 10,782; June 23, 12,936; June 24, 4,545; June 25, 6,021; June 26, 5,577; June 27, 4,641; June 28 5,314; June 29, 9,084; June 30, 9,182; July 1, 51,35 and July 2, 5,194.

Just to compare, here are the cumulative totals of counting from past years:

2006: 247; 803; 1,217, 1,975; 2,606; 3,179; 4,656; 6,623; 9,660; 12,785; 16,162; 20,840; 24,030; 29,158; 33,407; 37,917; 44,168; 53,334; 60,808; 70,016; and 75,996 (453,543 was the final season total).

2007: 412; 892; 1,343; 2,058; 2,907; 3,467; 4,302; 6,595; 8,390; 9,795; 11,048; 13,013; 15,484; 17,604; 20,824; 22,692; 24,033; 26,148; 27,196; 27, 769; and 29,180 (69,271 was the final season total).

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(People gather to watch returning sockeye at The Ballard Locks fish viewing window)

2008: 236; 570, 894; 1,411; 1,774; 2,173; 2,785; 3,653; 4,530; 5,437; 6,577; 8,439; 9,752; 11,068; 11,564; 13,558; 15,509; 16,781; 17,910; 19,012; and 19,012 (33,702 was the final season total).

2009: 299; 825; 1,322; 1,797; 2,425; 2,880; 3,520; 3,931; 4,394; 5,064; 6,190; 7,057; 7,686; 8,156; 8,702; 9,414; 10,279; 11,296; 12,124; 12,933; and 13,606 (22,166 was the final season total).

2011: 304; 563; 866; 1,218; 1,866; 2,512; 3,134; 3,452; 4,177; 5,319; 6,297; 7,221; 9,175; 11,011; 12,531; 13,794; 14,659; 14,969; 15,217; 15,612; and 16,016 (43,724 was the final season total).

2012: 1,633; 2,320; 2,852; 5,035; 8,097; 9,821; 11,337; 13,577; 19,999; 23,546; 25,385; 27,628; 31,368; 37,191; 38,971; 42,701; 47,781; 50,565; 57,094; 59,036; and 63,575 (145,815 was the final season total).

Here are extrapolations through Tuesday, July 2 based on historical runs last seven years: 2006, 649,022; 2007, 287,154; 2008, 180,780; 2009, 177,124; 2010, 361,702; 2011, 296,909; and 2012, 249,444.

“My guesstimate from the above is still a final run count at the locks that would fall in the range of 200,000 to 300,000,” said Frank Urabeck, a Cedar River Council member and sport fishing advocate. “I encourage the co-mangers to work their way through the spawner escapement goal issues so even a short sport/tribal fishery is still possible this month or early August.”
There have been ongoing talks between state and tribal fisheries managers about lowering the minimum spawning escapement goal. Some would like to see it as low as 150,000 to 200,000. State fisheries sources have indicated that talks have been active between co-managers.
“The huge numbers of folks that love to fish Lake Washington for sockeye would really go nuts even with just a token opening,” Urabeck said. “After a hiatus of six years , it is about time.”
Urabeck says the returns this year were supported by the temporary hatchery which contributed about 25-percent of the fry that entered Lake Washington from the Cedar River in 2010.  The new hatchery with 34 million fry capacity goal became operational in September 2011.
The last time Lake Washington was open for sport sockeye fishing was 2006 for 18 days with a return of 458,005 fish, the longest since 1996 when it was open 25 days. Other dates a fishery was held included 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1996.

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