The Lake Washington sockeye counts at the Ballard Locks have started to climb although still not anywhere near what was anticipated.
Fish counts from June 12-29, have seen 4,024 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.
“Counts improving (and) through June 29 run is at 36 percent of same date 2009 – 2009 worst year of record with just under 22,000 recorded for that year,” said Frank Urabeck, a Cedar River Council member and sport fishing advocate. “Now at 4.5 percent of 2013 which came in at about 179,000 for that year. I am still very skeptical that preseason forecast of 167,000 will be realized.”
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; 52 on June 24; 298 on June 25; 617 on June 26; 407 on June 27; 882 on June 28; and 970 on June 29.
For comparisons here is a look at the first 18 day counts in past years: 89,246 in 2013; 50,565 in 2012; 14,969 in 2011; 36,538 in 2010; 11,296 in 2009; 16,781 in 2008; 26,148 in 2007; and 53,334 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/.