|Sockeye anglers fishing off Mercer Island during the 1988 season.
management is simply those human-originated decisions or processes undertaken
for the purposes of affecting fish populations. Regulating manner, place,
or time in which fish can be taken; establishing catch and size limits;
defining gear used to take fish; deciding what species, how many, and
in what waters fish can be planted; these are some examples of fish management.
subtract the number of fish needed on the spawning grounds (350,000 in
the case of Lake Washington sockeye) from the estimated number returning
to the lake. Any surplus above the spawning goal is potentially available
for harvest, however, some minimum number of harvestable fish is needed
to provide a "meaningful fishing opportunity" for treaty and
non-treaty fishers. The estimated numbers of harvestable sockeye, will
dictate the nature of fishing regulations if there is an opportunity to
open fisheries; e.g. , daily limits, days open, length of season, etc.
The number of adult
sockeye returning to the lake (recruits) per each parent year spawner
is a measure of the stock's production rate (total survival). Average
production rate for Lake Washington sockeye is less than 1½ fish
returning for each parent spawner; i.e., for every sockeye harvested,
at least two others have to escape to successfully spawn, just to maintain
the run. This is an extremely low production rate. Fraser River sockeye,
for example, average 4 returning adults per parent spawner. Reasons for
the low production rate for Lake Washington fish are not yet fully understood.
Whatever the cause, the low production rate means that the sockeye are
delicately balanced between success and failure. That is why negative
impacts like flooding can so directly affect production and the opportunity
Managers apply locks
counts to the update model (that estimates run size) and determine if
the season can be opened. In most years, this decision can be made by
the end of the first full week in July. If an opening occurs, news releases
are sent to the television, radio, and print media. WDFW maintains a telephone
"hotline" for regulations at (360) 902-2500. News
releases and rule changes are also
carried on the agency's website.
Washington sockeye rig" was a flame red flatfish-type lure of size
U-20 or smaller, tied on 15 to 20 inches of 20-30 pound monofilament behind
an "O" (ought) size dodger. This combination was affixed 20
inches or more behind a 4 ounce (banana shaped) mooching lead on 30 pound
monofilament line. Similar lures in reds, silver, and gold, or patterns
incorporating those colors also proved successful. Later, various light
weight silver/chrome spoons were found to work well, too.
Everyone had their
own idea of the ideal sockeye lure until August 1988 when The Seattle
Times outdoors columnist, Brad O'Connor, sprung the "non-lure lure"
on the lake's anglers. In several of his articles that year, O'Connor
wrote of fishing parties consistently catching their 6 fish limit (in
effect at the time) without a lure ....... just a single, bare hook!!!
As incredible as it seemed, the "secret" lure was a red, blue,
or black bare hook fished behind an attractor (dodger or flasher). Red
fingernail polish was quickly in short supply in the Seattle area. To
view two Brad O'Connor (Seattle Times) articles from 1988 see Fishing
|Another sockeye in the net during the 1996 sport fishery.
Data analysis from 1972 showed it took P.M. (afternoon and evening) fishers
twice the hours to catch a sockeye as it took A.M.(morning) anglers. Fishing
speed is critical, too; troll veeerrry sloooowwly. In a mild breeze, "kill"
the motor and it may be that the "wind drift" is enough to do
the job. Past acoustic surveys , showed a decided sockeye preference for
depths from 30 to 60 feet (71% of the fish were located between 35 and
55 feet depths), but ranged to depths of 90 feet. Peak abundance was at
approximately 40 feet. Downriggers allow anglers to place their terminal
tackle at a known depth if they have calibrated the counter dial on the
in the past, indicated less than 8% of the sport fishery participants
had traveled more than 55 miles round trip. In the early 1970s, average
sockeye fishing trip lasted slightly less than 4½ hours. Apparently
the folks enjoyed their experience in 1988, because anglers averaged 8
sockeye trips to the lake that year. The "discovery" of bare
colored hooks may have shortened average trip length. Even so, the 1996
fishery generated almost one million angler hours of recreation in a matter
of a few weeks time.
The first year when
a directed Lake Washington sport sockeye catch was identified was 1970,
although some anglers probably caught sockeye prior to that. Interestingly,
this is a very "clean" fishery; i.e., very few species other
than sockeye are caught. This is an important understanding in light of
the listing of Puget Sound wild chinook as threatened under the federal
Endangered Species Act (ESA). In 1982, checks occurred on 19 of a 32 possible
sampling strata (time periods), and the state samplers observed only 1
chinook. Similarly, observations in 1983, when 33 of 49 possible sampling
strata were checked, only 2 chinook showed up in the catch. In more recent
years, regulations have required all chinook to be released, but these
past sampling data indicate few would be expected to be encountered by
If a sport fishing
season is opened, specific fishing rules will be announced. The following
are examples of some of the regulations that have been applied during
past sport fisheries for sockeye.
Catch Limit: Past daily catch limits have ranged from 1 to 6 fish. Quantity of fish
available for harvest and knowledge of past catch rates are considered
in establishing the daily limit. The "standard" limit in most
years has been 2 per day.
Size Limit: A 15 inch minimum applies to the lake to distinguish between kokanee
and adult sockeye. Although the very same species (sockeye migrate to
sea, and kokanee don't), they have different management needs. Studies
in the lake of fish lengths have found the 15 inch size can separate
these two fish. This regulation protects sockeye in years when the run
size numbers too few fish to allow a season, but kokanee may be kept
under trout fishing rules.
Closure Areas: Open fishing area is usually confined to the portion of the lake
south of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, because in most years
north lake tributaries receive too few fish to meet their spawning targets.
Waters within 1000 feet of the Cedar River mouth are closed in an effort
to reduce fishing rate on the early spawning component of the run, and
like the 100 yard closure around the floating bridges, it serves to
eliminate snagging concerns.
Data collected by
fishery samplers are essential to manage this run. Catch rate, combined
with fishing effort, allows biologists to estimate harvest. Length measurements
have helped separate kokanee from sockeye; scale samples can tell us age
of the fish and they can be used to identify Lake Washington sockeye from
Fraser River fish in test catches to manage Fraser fisheries; otoliths
(a small bony structure in the fish's inner ear) tell us fish age, whether
it was a wild Cedar River fish or produced by a hatchery facility.
Why cooperate with
samplers? Some folks recognize it is the ethical thing to do, and it is
a responsible act that shows respect for the fish resource. For the others,
they need to know the law requires it. "It is unlawful for any person
[....] to fail to comply with the directions of authorized department
personnel related to the collection of sampling data or material from
food fish or shellfish." (Section
220-20-010 (18) of the Washington Administrative Code)