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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 11, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Some movement made on Lake Washington sockeye situation

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(Visitor watch sockeye returning at The Ballard Locks fish viewing window)

For now the Lake Washington sockeye situation is still on a wait and see basis.

State Fish and Wildlife met Thursday (July 11) via a conference call with Muckleshoot, Suquamish and Tulalip tribal fisheries managers to review the Lake Washington sockeye run.

“The plan is to discuss the sockeye situation in the next couple of days (with state Fish and Wildlife director Phil Anderson),” said Pat Pattillo, the state Fish and Wildlife salmon policy manager.

The director will be briefed on the technical group’s new management objective, which calls for an escapement spawning goal as low as 200,000. The current spawning escapement goal is 350,000, which has been in place at least three or four decades.

Concerns at this point are the sockeye returns appear to be declining, and looks like it peaked a week ago, but that could still climb or continue in a downward trend.

Others discussed the warm water once the sockeye cross over the Locks, and into the thermal barrier between Lake Union and Lake Washington that creates a dire situation for fish.

Once the director is briefed and the tribal managers also meet, then another co-manager discussion will likely occur at some point next week.

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If a reduction is eventually approved, and if the run continues to move toward and above that 200,000, then a really small fishery could still be possible. State managers call this a step harvest rate approach.

The question is whether this new policy would be agreed for three or four years, and be a test drive to the change in management as well as working out sticky topics like mitigation and hatchery issues.

“The earliest time frame to have a possible fishery would be later this month, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they wait on this for another week or so,” said Frank Urabeck, a member of the Cedar River Council and a sport-fishing advocate from Bonney Lake. “I believe everyone agrees to wait until they are absolutely certain, and don’t want to be surprised the other way.”

Based on the latest numbers, Urabeck guesses the final run – adjusted for tribal C&S fisheries below the locks – will come in between 175,000 and 225,000.

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.

The peak return time is between July 4 and July 12.

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).

Here are the run-size guesstimates from extrapolations based on counts through July 9: 2006, 525,153; 2007, 225,246; 2008, 178,068; 2009, 170,907; 2010, 258,432; 2011, 207,674; and 2012, 183,455.

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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