A decision whether to hold a popular Lake Wenatchee sockeye salmon fishery is on hold while Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists monitor the number of fish able to reach the lake.
While this year's run of returning sockeye has been stronger than in recent years in the Columbia River, low water flows in the Wenatchee River system resulting from this year's drought are hampering fish passage at Tumwater Dam west of Leavenworth.
More than 100,000 sockeye have been counted at Rock Island Dam, with 35,000 of those fish expected to turn off into the Wenatchee River. The spawning escapement goal for the Wenatchee River system is 23,000 fish, nearly all of which spawn in the White River.
This year's drought has led to much lower river flows than normal. In recent days, flows in the Wenatchee River have dropped markedly, with a corresponding drop in sockeye numbers in daily counts at Tumwater Dam. Sockeye are milling in the water below the dam's fish ladder and in other sections of the river, apparently reluctant to move upstream.
If water flows continue to drop as expected as the season progresses, it could further limit upstream movement of sockeye into Lake Wenatchee. That could leave too few fish to meet escapement goals.
The decision whether to allow a lake sockeye fishery will be delayed until fishery managers are confident that the escapement goal will be met.