All eyes will be glued in the coming weeks on the Skagit River, which opens Saturday (June 14) for sockeye salmon that are destined to the Baker River, a tributary of the northern Puget Sound big river.
“I expect to see good sockeye fishing, and we usually start to see the first ones arrive around June 23 (the earliest arrival was June 17),” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “We’ll cross out fingers and see if we get lucky again like what we saw two years ago. That year’s return is equal to what we’re expecting this summer.”
The Skagit system sockeye forecast this summer is 35,377 (similar to about 35,000 two years ago), and up from about 21,000 last year.
“To my knowledge there have zero sightings of sockeye in the river (last Thursday, June 5), and no that isn not a cause for concern,” Barkdull said. “When the sockeye show up they tend to show up in good numbers. If they show, they will show up (sometime this week).”
Barkdull says the Skagit goes from completely absent of sockeye and then show up with no forewarning.
“People have expressed we open the fishery too early, and that is not true,” he said.
The sockeye fishery in the Skagit River from Highway 536 at Mount Vernon to the mouth of Gilligan Creek is open through June 29 with a three sockeye daily limit (a 12 inch minimum size limit) and a night closure.
The Baker Lake sockeye fishery will be open July 10 to Sept. 7, and the daily catch limit has been raised to three sockeye compared two fish last summer.
Barakdull says the state Fish and Wildlife website that tracks the Baker River sockeye sockeye run is up and running, and anglers can follow the counts once they start arriving at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/sockeye/baker_river.html.
“I’ve been getting lots of calls, and we’ll post things when the fish start to show up,” Barkdull said.
The peak time and/or mid-point of the sockeye run is usually around July 17.