OLYMPIA - The sockeye salmon run returning to Lake Washington this year is likely to be too small to support fisheries, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and its tribal salmon co-managers announced today.
As of July 9, more than 146,000 sockeye had passed upstream of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard and into the Lake Washington system. The fish are counted at the locks' fish ladder by technical staff from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and WDFW.
Fisheries biologists estimate that the July 9 count represents the approximate mid-point of the sockeye run this year, putting the total run size at between 225,000 and 260,000 sockeye.
These projections are below the spawning escapement goal of 350,000 sockeye, making it unlikely that there will be an opportunity to open fishing seasons.
Expectations for a Lake Washington sockeye fishery this year were heightened when early sockeye return rates to the locks and to Lake Quinault on the Olympic Coast were much stronger than expected.
State and tribal co-managers will review the sockeye counts at the locks again next week, and some fisheries will be scheduled if the numbers of returning fish increase substantially and future runsize projections determine the return is above the spawning needs.
While this year's return is expected to be smaller than the number required for fishing, it still portends good things for fisheries in future years.
"This year's return represents a major recovery over the 90,000 fish in the parent return four years ago," said Jim Ames, WDFW sockeye program manager. "In fact, sockeye returns over the last three years have all exceeded 200,000 fish, which should increase the likelihood of fishable runs in coming years."
With several hundred thousand sockeye returning this year, there will continue to be an outstanding opportunity to view the fish at the Ballard Locks through July and into early August. The locks are just west of downtown Ballard on Northwest 54th Street.
The Ballard Locks sockeye counts are posted on WDFW's sockeye salmon web page on the Internet.