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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 17, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Lake Washington sockeye numbers dip; fisheries managers meet Thursday to discuss issues

photo (1)

(People gather to watch sockeye returning to The Ballard Locks fish viewing window. Photo by Mark Yuasa.)

Those watching the Lake Washington sockeye returns and hoping on a fishery just might have gotten some bad news as the counts at The Ballard Locks dropped in the past couple of days.

Single-day counts have fallen to 2,112 on Mondau, July 15, and then the second lowest figure of the season at 1,287 on Tuesday, July 16. That brings the updated run size for Lake Washington sockeye to 163,596 sockeye through Tuesday, July 16. At this same time frame in 2006 the counts were 223,821, which was the last time a sport fishery was held in the large urban watershed. The preseason forecast this summer was 96,866.

Other single-day counts have looked like this since they 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; July 9, 4,532; July 10, 4,748; July 11, 4,130; July 12, 5,607; July 13, 4,191; and July 14, 3,159.

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

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 Fish and Wildlife will meet Thursday, July 18 to discuss the next step and review the Lake Washington sockeye run.

“We are planning to meet (with state Fish and Wildlife director Phil Anderson) and decide on the next step, which is likely to be a policy discussion,” said Pat Pattillo, the state Fish and Wildlife salmon policy coordinator. “I suspect we’ll know a lot more (by Thursday) if we are ready to make a change in management objectives (possibly lowering the escapement goal to 200,000). Again we are trying not to be flicker the flames although the flames are dying down at the moment.”

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 two weeks 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.

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 it is likely fisheries managers will not make any decisions for at least a week or longer.

Based on the latest numbers — adjusted for tribal C & S fisheries below the locks — the final run could end up between 175,000 and 225,000.

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; 119,495; 129,342; 140,723; 159,262; 178,950; 195,131; 207,443; and 223,821 (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; 42,551; 43,348; 43,927; 44,617; 45,422; 46,132; 47,846; and 49,321 (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; 26,187; 27,073; 27,915; 28,479; 28,997; 29,651; 30,438; and 30,877 (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; 17,945; 18,242; 18,434; 18,688; 18,845; 19,273; 19,734; and 19,916 (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; 86,421; 89,801; 95,758; 100,530; 108,353; 117,220; 123,651; and 128,835 (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; 29,131; 30,507; 31,354; 32,291; 33,404; 34,467; 35,235; and 35,768 (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; 109,974; 113,556; 118,918; 123,548; 125,150; 127,685; 128,896; and 129,483 (145,815 was the final season total).

The last time Lake Washington was open for sport sockeye fishing in 2006 anglers has 18 days to fish on the water 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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