The Lake Washington sockeye counts at the Ballard Locks finally showed a glimmer of hope in the past two days with counts on the rise after a dismal start.
“Counts suggest a bit of improvement up from about 11 percent earlier of 2009 for same date to 20 percent,” said Frank Urabeck, a member of the Cedar River Council and sport fishing advocate. “However, the percent relative to 2013 run about the same – 2.5 percent. At this point I would be ecstatic if we did as well as 2009.”
Fish counts from June 12-26, have seen 1,765 sockeye, and are still 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; 43 on June 22; 119 on June 23; and 52 on June 24.
Single-day counts on Wednesday, June 25 finally climbed to 298, and by Thursday, June 26 it increased to 617.
For comparisons here is a look at the first 13 day counts in past years: 70,206 in 2013; 38,971 in 2012; 12,531 in 2011; 22,433 in 2010; 8,702 in 2009; 11,564 in 2008; 20,824 in 2007; and 33,407 in 2006.
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.
Summer fishing in Western Washington’s largest urban watershed is highly doubtful this summer as the count spirals even more downward and to the point where broodstock goals might fall really short of any minimum goal.
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/.