Lake Wenatchee sockeye salmon fishing will remain closed because the current run of Wenatchee River sockeye is not strong enough to support a season this year.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) officials note that by late July, more than 73 percent of the returning sockeye passed over the Columbia River's Rock Island Dam, continuing upstream past Rocky Reach Dam and into the Okanogan watershed. Of those fish, only about 20,000 have turned off into the Wenatchee River, just below Rocky Reach Dam.
WDFW regional fish program manager Joe Foster explained that at least 27,000 sockeye need to return to the Wenatchee system before a fishing season can be opened. That's based on harvest estimates of about 16 percent of the run in prior years, he said.
"The majority of Lake Wenatchee sockeye are four and five years old," Foster said. "The five-year-olds are very low in number in this year's run because of floods in November of 1995. We believe these floods all but wiped out the 1995 spawn in the Wenatchee River basin, and therefore reduced the overall run size this year."
Foster said the Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery might be opened next year, depending on the run.
Meanwhile, this season remains closed, and all sockeye accidentally caught in Lake Wenatchee by trout or kokanee fishers must be released. (Kokanee are land-locked sockeye salmon that by legal definition are under 16 inches; those over 16 inches are considered sockeye salmon and must be released, as stated under the Lake Wenatchee rules on page 125 of the WDFW "Fishing In Washington" regulations pamphlet.)