SEATTLE — The recreational Lake Washington sockeye fishery will close at noon Sunday when the non-tribal share of 62,500 fish is expected to be reached, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Meanwhile, the schedule for sport fishing is being adjusted to spread remaining fishing opportunity throughout the weekend. Sport fishing, which re-opens tomorrow (July 13) from noon until one hour after official sunset, will remain open mornings only Friday through Sunday (July 14 through 16). Fishing hours on those days will be from one hour before sunrise until noon, rather than the all-daylight-hours schedule previously set for recreational fishing.
WDFW biologists said the recreational fishery, which opened July 4, will officially close at noon Sunday.
"We have been extremely pleased to offer this fishing opportunity to the state's citizens," WDFW Director Jeff Koenings said. "The popularity of this fishery has met or exceeded all of our expectations, and we have had overwhelmingly positive feedback."
Biologists said the sockeye fishing closure is based on a revised run size estimate of 475,000 fish. Of that 475,000 number (down from the last estimate of 520,000 fish) 350,000 fish must escape harvest in order to spawn and perpetuate the run.
Tribal commercial fishers can continue to fish for sockeye until they harvest their share of the available catch. Their share is the same as that allotted to recreational fishers.
To accommodate the tribal commercial fishery, non-tribal recreational fishing will close at noon today (July 12) and will remain closed until noon tomorrow (July 13).
The sockeye fishery, believed to be the largest urban salmon fishery in the country, opened for the first time in four years on Independence Day. Anglers caught an estimated 15,000 fish on opening day. By Tuesday, more than 50,000 angler trips had taken place. Through July 9, a total of 43,800 fish were caught in the sport fishery. The Department expects the remainder of the non-tribal share will be taken by noon Sunday.
This year's healthy return of sockeye was due to a large escapement of the parent stock in 1996 and improved ocean conditions, biologists said. Fish passage improvements at the Ballard Locks also are believed to have helped the run.
The sockeye fishery opportunity did not affect on-going efforts to recover threatened Puget Sound chinook salmon. Most chinook do not return to the lake until mid-August, so they are not present in lake waters in significant numbers at this time.
Fishers can learn more about the sockeye fishery by visiting WDFW's website.