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Lake Wenatchee Open for Sockeye

by Scott Sandsberry
Yakima Herald-Republic, August 5, 2008

While recognizing that Lake Wenatchee sockeye are not Idaho sockeye, is posting this story as a source of comparison.

By 9 this morning, there'll probably be upwards of 300 fishing boats on Lake Wenatchee with passengers enjoying the opening day of one of the state's most anticipated freshwater fisheries in years.

Their target will be the thousands of sockeye salmon that have steamed up the Columbia River in one of the biggest runs in modern times. More than 213,000 sockeye passed through Bonneville Dam this year -- a number not far off the 238,000 seen in 1955.

With neither Lake Washington nor Skagit County's Baker Lake having enough sockeye to justify a season this year, angler interest has been high over the possibility of one on Lake Wenatchee, a 6-mile-long lake north of Leavenworth in Chelan County.

But because sockeye runs are notoriously difficult to predict, fish managers couldn't tell any of the relentless callers whether Lake Wenatchee would have its first sockeye fishery since 2004 and only the sixth ever.

Even as late as Tuesday morning, when more than 24,600 sockeye were at or nearly at the lake, the state Fish and Wildlife Department still wasn't ready to announce a fishery until it was clear that there would be enough fish above the 23,000 escapement goal to warrant a fishery.

"We'd like to have at least a couple thousand (above the goal) so we can provide some real fishing opportunity," said state fish biologist Kirk Truscott. "We don't want to open a two-day fishery."

By Tuesday afternoon, though, the Wildlife Department announced a Lake Wenatchee fishery to last "until further notice," with a daily limit of two sockeye per angler.

A truncated season on the lake isn't likely. Counts at Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River, the last place the fish are counted before reaching the lake, have been averaging better than 700 a day for the last week. In 2004, Lake Wenatchee anglers caught more than 5,400 sockeye, and that Columbia River run was barely more than half the size of this year's.

Besides sockeye's popular taste and texture, there are several reasons for the popularity of the Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery.

"It's much easier to catch them in Lake Wenatchee than the mainstem (Columbia)," says state habitat biologist Perry Harvester. "They're at their destination, it's a terminal fishery, the concentrations of fish are much higher and the water is clear, so the fish are much more likely to see your (lure) presentation."

Related Pages:
F&G Management Plans Helping in the Sockeye Recovery by Cal Groen, Idaho Statesman, 8/12/8
Don't Equate Strong Sockeye Return with Recovery by Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman, 8/10/8

Scott Sandsberry
Lake Wenatchee Open for Sockeye
Yakima Herald-Republic, August 5, 2008

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