Lake Washington sockeye salmon are cooperatively managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and three Puget Sound Indian tribes; the Muckleshoot, Suquamish, and Tulalip tribes. Annually, the co-managers base decisions on fishing seasons on counts made as the sockeye enter freshwater at the Ballard Locks. When the run into the lake is expected to exceed the spawner objective for the system, the surplus fish are made available for harvest by recreational and Tribal fisheries. The following is information on the 2016 Lake Washington sockeye salmon return and the process that will be used to decide if fishing seasons will occur.
The pre-season forecast for the 2016 sockeye return is about 119,125. The estimate is based primarily upon fry production from the spawners in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Since lake and marine survival rates are highly variable from year to year, the actual return to Lake Washington could be higher or lower than 119,125.
The spawning escapement goal for the system is 350,000 sockeye salmon. If the projected return is greater than 350,000 the excess will be available to provide for sport and Tribal fisheries. The process for determining if there are surplus sockeye for sport and Tribal fisheries is based on an in-season estimate of total run size that is generated by counting the sockeye as they enter the system at the Ballard Locks. Daily estimates are added and the cumulative total is compared to various run-size projection update models based on past years’ data and a total run estimate is calculated.
Although sockeye are observed at the locks as early as mid-May, personnel from the Muckleshoot Tribe and WDFW will conduct formal sockeye counts from June 12th through the end of July. Counts conducted during this standardized time period are the basis of the update model.
Reliable estimates of projected total run size cannot be made until a significant portion of the run has entered the system. State and Tribal biologists will update this year's return beginning in early to mid-July. The mid-July period is typically when more than 50% of the sockeye return has passed the Locks. A determination will be made in early to mid-July if there are sufficient sockeye to open fisheries, and the structure and duration of any fishing seasons will be announced.
Although the preseason forecast falls well below the 350,000 escapement, if the return is large enough to support a sport fishery, it would probably be open in early to mid-July. Updated in-season sockeye salmon counts from the Ballard Locks can be viewed in the Sockeye Counts section.