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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 19, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Lake Washington sockeye fishery more doubtful as counts drop dramatically

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The chances of having any kind of Lake Washington sockeye fishery just might have dwindled even more as single-day counts The Ballard Locks dropped dramatically in the past two days.

Single-day counts have fallen to 1,706 on Wednesday, July 17, and then the second lowest figure of the season at 697 on Thursday, July 19. That brings the updated run size for Lake Washington sockeye to 165,999 sockeye through Thursday, July 19. At this same time frame in 2006 the counts were 275,077, 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; July 14, 3,159; July 15, 2,112; and July 16, 1,287.

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 met Thursday, July 18 to discuss the next step and review the Lake Washington sockeye run, including looking at possibly lowering the escapement goal to 200,000. The current spawning escapement goal is 350,000, which has been in place at least three or four decades.

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; 223,821; 260,140; and 275,077 (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; 49,321; 50,553; and 52,054 (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; 30,877; 31,271; and 31,582 (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; 19,916; 20,250; and 20,396 (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; 128,835; 133,065; 135,684;  and 137,664 (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; 35,768; 36,744; and 37,362 (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; 129,483; 130,565; and 131,901 (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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