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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 14, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Better late than not for Lake Washington sockeye returns

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The Lake Washington sockeye counts at the Ballard Locks have finally rebounded to fairly respectable numbers, and while nothing near the pre-season forecast of 166,997 it looks better than what was seen a few weeks ago.

Fish counts from June 12-July 13, have seen 30,865 sockeye, which are headed for tributaries such as the Cedar River and other smaller creeks in Lake Washington.

“Wow! Pleasant surprise that 2014 Lake Washington sockeye run seems to be much stronger than early counts suggested would be the case,” said Frank Urabeck, a member of the Cedar River Council. “We will not know exact size of 2014 run until perhaps well into August.”

“However, this run has already passed the total run for 2009 (22,166), most certainly will come in ahead of 2008 (33,702), maybe even 2011 (43,815), and could reach 50,000 or more,” he said.

Through July 13 the estimated count is about 164-percent of 2009 counts for this date and 20-percnt of last year.

The latest mid-point date for runs 2006 through 2013 was July 16, 2006. All other runs achieved mid-point by July 8, some as early as June 29.

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; 1,316 on July 6; 2,190 on July 7; 2,285 on July 8; 1,994 on July 9; 2,773 on July 10; 1,831 on July 11; 2,420 on July 12; and 2,441 on July 13.

For comparisons here is a look counts during the same time frame in past years: 157,038 in 2013; 125,150 in 2012; 33,404 in 2011; 108,353 in 2010; 18,845 in 2009; 28,997 in 2008; 45,422 in 2007; and 178,950 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 http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/counts/sockeye/.

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