Decent Numbers of Sockeye Still Returning to
by Mark Yuasa
The sockeye watch continues in the Columbia River, Lake Washington and Baker River with most still moving along at a fairly good clip.
"It is still going strong, and has slipped behind some yearly counts (during the same time period), and we've now got a quarter-million fish over (Bonneville) dam," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
Through Sunday (June 26), 242,499 sockeye had been counted at Bonneville -- the preseason forecast was 101,600 -- which has now dropped it down to the third highest dating back to 1938.
The highest count during the same time frame was 289,500 in 2012, and 267,200 last year.
Last year's total return of 512,500 sockeye was the third largest run since at least 1938 -- record was 648,361 sockeye in 2014.
The single-day sockeye counts at Bonneville were 12,114 on Sunday; 16,466 on Saturday; 21,412 on Friday; 23,518 on Thursday; 17,352 on June 22.
"We may have peaked, but it is still a darn good run," Hymer said.
Hymer reports some incidental catches of sockeye on the Lower Columbia by anglers fishing steelhead or chinook.
Closer to Seattle, this summer's Lake Washington sockeye return is off to a rather positive start, but many are weighing on the side of caution as run in the past decade have fallen well below expectations.
Through Sunday (June 26), 15,177 sockeye have been counted at the Ballard Locks fish ladder.
Other counts at this same time frame were 4,976 in 2015; 1,765 in 2014; 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; 33,407 in 2006; and 11,010 in 2005.
The Lake Washington sockeye forecast this summer is a conservative figure of 119,215 (88,546 of hatchery origin and 30,759 wild).
Single-day counts have been 2,134 on Sunday; 1,824 on Saturday; 679 on Friday; 1,905 on Thursday; 2,214 on June 22; and 1,357 on June 21.
The last time Lake Washington was open for sport sockeye fishing was 2006 when 453,543 returned. Other dates a fishery was held included 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1996.
The current spawning escapement goal is 350,000, but state and tribal fish managers have pretty much agreed on lowering the goal to 200,000. A decision on the change could be announced if the in-season count is likely to be achieved.
Usually the historical midpoint of the lake's sockeye run has been from June 29 to July 14.
Another sockeye run being closely watched is the Baker River returns where some have started to appear in catches this past weekend on the open sections of the Skagit River.
Through Sunday (June 26), 1,179 sockeye have tallied at the Baker River fish trap with 626 transported up the Baker Lake.
The forecast calls for 55,054 fish to return this summer, which is a similar figure to last year. The peak is around July 17.
The Skagit River is open through July 15 from Highway 536 Bridge at Mount Vernon to the mouth of Gilligan Creek. The daily limit is three sockeye with a night closure. The fishery could close sooner if the catch guideline of 4,600 sockeye is achieved.
Baker Lake will open for sockeye from July 10 through Sept. 7 with a five sockeye daily limit.
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