OLYMPIA – This year’s Lake Washington returning sockeye salmon run is significantly weaker than expected and is likely too small to support fisheries, state and tribal salmon managers announced today.
Fishery biologists with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes made the announcement after reviewing updated counts of sockeye from the Ballard Locks, where the fish move from Puget Sound into Lake Washington and the rivers that flow into the lake.
Through yesterday, 30,914 sockeye had been tallied at the locks since counting began June 12. During the same period last year, more than 195,000 sockeye were counted at the locks.
Absent an unprecedented late-season surge in counts at the locks, the low returns dash any hopes this summer for a repeat of last year’s fisheries in Lake Washington. Last year sport anglers and tribal fishers took nearly 54,000 sockeye.
“It is unfortunate that the run appears to be too weak for a sockeye season on the lake this year,” said Tim Flint, WDFW statewide salmon manager. “Even a brief sockeye-fishing season brings thousands of anglers to Lake Washington and generates a lot of excitement and economic activity in the region.”
Fishery managers had predicted that 398,000 sockeye would return to the lake this year. An estimated return of more than 350,000 fish is needed for consideration of state recreational and tribal commercial fisheries.
Using current data, fishery managers now believe the total run will be about 71,000 sockeye, although low counts in Canadian test fisheries off Vancouver Island indicate that the return could even be smaller.
“We can be fairly precise in our decision whether to open the fishery because we keep a close eye on the sockeye run as the fish move through the locks,” said Mike Mahovlich, fisheries biologist for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.
A limited number of sockeye are being taken at the locks for research. In addition, the Suquamish Indian Tribe is planning a brief ceremonial fishery for no more than 400 fish in a small portion of the ship canal below the locks.
More information on Lake Washington sockeye, including updated salmon counts from the locks, is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/sockeye/counts.htm on the Internet.