Fishing for sockeye salmon will return to Lake Wenatchee for the first time in eight years with a fishery scheduled for Aug. 10 - 19.
Despite a strong return of sockeye to the Columbia River system this year, it appeared uncertain whether there would be a Lake Wenatchee fishery, because of fish passage problems brought about by low flows in the Wenatchee River at the Tumwater Dam.
"The low flows made it difficult for sockeye to get to the fish ladder and pass over the dam and move into Lake Wenatchee," said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) regional fish program manager Joe Foster.
"Thanks to the combined efforts of staff from the Chelan Public Utility District, which operates the dam, and our own habitat, biological and engineering staff, we were able to solve the problem and allow the sockeye to continue their upstream migration," Foster said. "Without their quick work, there would be no sockeye fishery this year."
The daily limit per angler is two sockeye 16 inches or larger which must have their adipose fin intact. Many fishers are used to keeping only those fish missing the adipose fin, which identifies hatchery-origin salmon, Foster explained. But the lack of an adipose fin on a Lake Wenatchee sockeye means the fish has been equipped with a radio transmitter that allows biologists to monitor its movements through the lake and determine spawning sites.
"This information, along with other data we're collecting, will give us a better understanding of the biology of Lake Wenatchee sockeye, and could lead to more fishing opportunities on this healthy stock," Foster said.
It is estimated that approximately 30,000 sockeye will have passed over Tumwater Dam by the time the Lake Wenatchee fishery opens. Of these, about 7,000 are surplus to natural spawning needs and are available for harvest.
In addition to the requirement to release fish with a missing adipose fin, other fishery restrictions include no night fishing and no fishing within 100 feet of the net pens near the mouth of the White River at the northwest end of the lake. Also, non-buoyant lure restrictions will be in effect, and all bull trout - a federally protected species - must be safely released.
Lake Wenatchee sockeye salmon anglers are also able to take five kokanee trout under 16 inches per day. There is no minimum size restriction on the trout.
Kokanee 16 inches and over are considered sockeye and count toward the daily two-salmon limit on Lake Wenatchee.
Parking and boat launch facilities on Lake Wenatchee are limited to the U.S. Forest Service boat launch and Lake Wenatchee State Park. Combined, they can accommodate about 80 vehicles, and USFS and state parks personnel will be turning would-be anglers away once parking areas are filled. Anglers must have a valid Washington state fishing license and catch record card.