The Lake Washington sockeye counts at the Ballard Lock fish ladder have started, but so far return numbers aren’t quite living up to what was seen in past years.
The first four days of counting have just mustered up 310 sockeye headed for tributaries such as the Cedar River and other smaller creeks in Lake Washington.
On June 12, 185 were counted, and then the numbers dropped with 66 on June 13; 44 on June 14; and 14 on June 15.
This summer’s forecast of 166,997 sockeye falls well short of the 350,000 spawning escapement, but this run has exceeded forecasts in past years and if the predictions are on target it would be a significant improvement for the third year in a row.
Last year, an in-season return of 179,203 beat a forecast of 96,866, and in 2012, 145,815 headed back to the large urban watershed after a forecast of 45,871.
The breakdown of this summer’s return looks like this: Cedar River bound are made up of 54,348 hatchery sockeye and 50,464 wild fish, plus another 62,185 headed for the Sammamish River.
For comparisons here is a look at the first four day counts in past years: 8,917 in 2013; 5,035 in 2012; 1,218 in 2011; 2,342 in 2010; 1,797 in 2009; 1,411 in 2008; 2,058 in 2007; and 1,975 in 2006.
Summer fishing in Western Washington’s largest urban watershed is doubtful, but many are hoping these strong returns will boost populations in the near future.
The last time Lake Washington was open for sport sockeye fishing was 2006. Other dates a fishery was held included 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1996.
There have been ongoing talks between state and tribal fisheries managers about lowering the minimum spawning escapement goal. Some would like to see it as low as 150,000 to 200,000.
Here is a link to the state Fish and Wildlife website to follow the returns back to the large urban watershed http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/counts/sockeye/.