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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 7, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Lake Washington sockeye returns improve, and similar to 2009 run


The Lake Washington sockeye counts at the Ballard Locks are slowly creeping back to numbers similar t the 2009 return although still not anywhere near the preseason forecast of 166,997.

Fish counts from June 12-July 6, have seen 14,933 sockeye, and are still below any figures taken since 2006 and slightly down from 16,182 in 2009 at the same time frame. The sockeye are headed for tributaries such as the Cedar River and other smaller creeks in Lake Washington.

“This year’s Lake Washington sockeye returns still improving (and) now at 72 percent of 2009 (worst run of record) and 9 percent of last year, 2013, same date,” said Frank Urabeck, a member of the Cedar River Council. “In another week we should have much better sense of 2014 run.”

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; 970 on June 29; 997 on June 30; 1,998 on July 1; 1,906 on July 2; 1,438 on July 3; 1,965 on July 4; 1,290 on July 5; and 1,316 on July 6.

For comparisons here is a look at the first 23 day counts in past years: 123,496 in 2013; 93,563 in 2012; 25,599 in 2011; 72,169 in 2010; 16,182 in 2009; 24,223 in 2008; 37,117 in 2007; and 89,605 in 2006.

This summer’s forecast 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




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