State and Muckleshoot tribal fishery biologists are monitoring the number of sockeye salmon returning to Lake Washington to determine if the run is sufficient to allow for sport and tribal harvest this summer.
Last year a return of over 400,000 sockeye provided a sport sockeye season in Lake Washington for the first time since 1996. The sport fishery opened on July 4 and, in about 10 days, anglers caught about 62,000 fish. Tribal net fisheries in Lake Washington, the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Shilshole Bay harvested about 60,000 sockeye.
Although hopes are mounting for a repeat of last year's fishing opportunity, tribal and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists caution that this summer's return is not likely to be as large as last year's. Preliminary forecasts are for slightly less than 300,000 fish. However, at least 350,000 returning fish are needed for spawning so that future runs are strong enough to support fisheries.
The decision whether to hold a fishery typically is made during the first half of July, depending on the abundance and timing of the returning run.
Scientific technicians with the Muckleshoot Tribe and WDFW make daily counts of sockeye passing through the Hiram Chittenden Locks in Ballard to estimate how many fish will eventually enter the lake. Sockeye counts began June 12 but sufficient data to make a decision whether to hold a fishery will not be available until at least late June or early July.
Fishery managers will be updating the run's status weekly, and more frequently as the peak of the sockeye run approaches on or around July 8. Updated fish counts from the Locks and information about possible fishing opportunities will be posted as they become available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/sockeye/counts.htm on the Internet.