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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM

Lake Washington sockeye count climbs to 138,362, and is now four times higher than preseason forecast

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(People gather to watch the sockeye in The Ballard Locks fish viewing window)

The Lake Washington sockeye count continued at a steady pace at the Ballard Locks fish ladder as it nears the peak run timing, and two questions on many minds are: Will there be enough to offer fishing? Will the fishery co-managers lower the spawning escapement? And when will they update the run-size?

The updated run size of 138,362 sockeye through Tuesday, July 9 is now a little less than 20,000 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 shattered 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 this week possibly as soon as Wednesday (July 10) to provide an inseason run-size update, and the peak time is between July 4 and July 12. As for if a fishery is possible most say that is clearly up in the air yet, and doubtful if the spawning escapement stays at the current 350,000 figure.

In the meantime there has been ongoing talks between state and tribal fisheries managers about lowering the minimum spawning escapement goal in the neighborhood of around 200,000. The recent discussions indicate the alternative management objective has gone from a technical recommendation to a consideration, but whether that means it will change in time for this summer is still up in the air.

In the the ongoing talks there has been issues brought up such as the conservation risk, and if the escapement goal is lowered will that lead to problems not only with wild sockeye but hatchery sockeye returns to the Cedar River watershed.

One tribal ceremonial sockeye fishery was already conducted late last week for about 2,000 sockeye with maximum catch of 5,000 fish between the Suquamish and Muckleshoot tribes, but any other fishing (sport or tribal) beyond that hasn’t been considered yet.

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; July 2, 5,194; July 3 5,185; July 4, 3,309; July 5, 3,257; July 6, 2,988; July 7, 6,543; July 8, 3,791; and Wednesday, July 9, 4,532.

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; 75,996; 79,476; 81,368; 85,638; 89,605; 97,431; 109,226; and 119,495 (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; 29,180; 31,516; 33,236; 34,761; 37,117; 39,459; 40,160; and 42,551 (69,271 was the final season total).

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; 19,012; 20,275; 21,443; 22,810; 23,726; 24,223; 24,969; 25,568; and 26,187 (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; 13,606; 14,306; 14,839; 15,494; 16,182; 16,735; 17,447; and 17,945 (22,166 was the final season total).

2010: 625; 1,027; 1,673; 2,342; 3,296; 4,194; 5,531; 6,756; 8,119; 9,475; 12,679; 15,656; 18,094; 20,616; 22,433; 27,449; 32,012; 36,538; 40,00; 45,518; 48,535; 50,789; 57,555; 62,012; 72,169; 79,600; 82,425; and 86,421 (161,417 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; 16,016; 16,913; 20,463; 23,824; 25,599; 26,596; 27,460; and 29,131 (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; 63,575; 69,340; 78,940; 85,072; 93,563; 99,661; 103,639; and 109,974 (145,815 was the final season total).

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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