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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

June 23, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Lake Washington sockeye run still in a downward spiral

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The Lake Washington sockeye run is headed for the bottom of the barrel, and daily counts continue to be very sluggish.

Fish counts from June 12-22, have seen just a meager 679 sockeye, and has fallen well below any figures taken since 2006. The sockeye are 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; 14 on June 15; 40 on June 16; 37 on June 17; 56 on June 18; 90 on June 19; 52 on June 20; 52 on June 21; and 43 on June 22.

The turmoil is getting worse for sockeye with the 2014 run now only about 11 percent of the most recent worst run in 2009 through June 22, and 1.6 percent of last year.

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 eight day counts in past years: 41,128 in 2013; 25,385 in 2012; 5,319 in 2011; 9,475 in 2010; 5,064 in 2009; 5,437 in 2008; 9,795 in 2007; and 12,785 in 2006.

Summer fishing in Western Washington’s largest urban watershed is highly doubtful this summer as the count spiral downward, 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/.

 

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