OLYMPIA – State and tribal fish managers agreed today that a sockeye salmon fishery in Lake Washington is unlikely this year because there are not enough returning fish.
Biologists and fish managers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Muckleshoot, Tulalip and Suquamish tribes reached the decision after reviewing the number of adult sockeye which have returned to the lake through the Hiram Chittenden Locks in Ballard.
"We're seeing declining numbers, and it looks like we may not have enough fish for both the fishery and meeting the escapement goal," said Pat Pattillo, WDFW salmon policy coordinator. "We could have a late surge, but it appears we are on the back side of the run."
In the event that numbers surge significantly, a brief fishery might still be held but that is unlikely, he added.
The state and tribal co-managers will confer again Friday before making a final determination on a possible fishing opportunities.
Scientists agree that at least 350,000 fish must survive to spawn so that future runs are strong enough to support fisheries. As of yesterday (July 9), some 205,558 fish had been counted returning to the lake through the locks, and the daily counts were dropping.
"Of course we would have liked to see a repeat of last year's incredibly popular fishery, but our top priority is and must be maintaining the run for the future," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings.
Last year, a returning run of over 400,000 fish provided an early July fishery that drew some 75,000 recreational anglers to the lake over a 10-day period, and also provided a tribal net fishery.
This year's run, monitored by scientific technicians with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Muckleshoot Tribe, not only is considerably smaller but it also has an unusual pattern, said Dick Geist, fish biologist for WDFW.
Instead of building to a peak and tapering off in a steady curve, this year's run has been marked by sporadic spikes since daily run counts began June 12.
The highest daily count was 15,331 on July 3, while yesterday's count had dropped to 9,287 fish.
State and tribal managers will continue to monitor the sockeye run through the end of July.
Daily and cumulative sockeye counts for this year and last year are posted on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/sockeye/counts.htm on the Internet.