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Originally published July 2, 2014 at 5:03 PM | Page modified July 2, 2014 at 5:15 PM

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Sockeye approach record low on Skagit River, Lake Washington

Numbers improve slightly, but still remain far behind predictions.

Seattle Times staff reporter


Worried is an understatement when it comes to a lack of sockeye returning to the Skagit River and Lake Washington, although each had gained a bit of steam this week.

“Anglers ended up taking a pretty significant number of sockeye this weekend (on a section of the Skagit that closed after Sunday),” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, whose creel surveyors checked 394 anglers last weekend with 171 fish.

“It was better, but the sockeye still aren’t showing up in any real good numbers yet,” Barkdull said. “I would still say there is concern, and it’s getting close to a record as far as lateness.”

Upstream from the Skagit, just 17 sockeye have been transferred from the Baker River fish trap to Baker Lake.

“Unless we jump to 1,000 fish soon we’re going to take all of them for (spawning) purposes, and there needs to be a big increase before we put anything else into the lake,” Barkdull said.

Last year, 12,500 sockeye were transferred into the lake and generated a meager fishing season. In 2012, 28,400 returned and saw one of the lake’s best fisheries.

At this point, Barkdull says there won’t be an emergency closure for Baker Lake, which is open for sockeye fishing from July 10 to Sept. 7, but based on the meager sockeye transfer there’s no point in going up there yet.

In the Seattle area, the Lake Washington sockeye count finally sprang to life at the Ballard Locks, but is still not close to what was anticipated.

Only 4,024 sockeye had been counted at the Locks from June 12 to 29, well below any in-season figures taken since 2006. Single-day counts climbed to 882 fish on Saturday and 970 on Sunday.

Here are the first 18-day counts in past years: 89,246 in 2013, 50,565 in 2012, 14,969 in 2011, 36,538 in 2010, 11,296 in 2009, 16,781 in 2008, 26,148 in 2007 and 53,334 in 2006.

This summer’s forecast of 166,997 sockeye falls well short of the 350,000 spawning escapement to have any kind of fishery. The last time a fishery occurred was 2006.

Last year, an in-season return of 179,203 beat a forecast of 96,866, and in 2012, 145,815 headed back to the large urban watershed after a forecast of 45,871.

To the south, the Columbia River sockeye return was upgraded to 425,000, a big uptick of 75,000 from the preseason forecast. Through June 30, 316,297 were counted at Bonneville Dam, and usually the halfway point of the run occurs by June 25. The record return was 521,000 in 2012, and the second-highest was 387,900 in 2010.

Fishing Report
Location Comment
Marine areas

Good at Sekiu for hatchery king fishing with a fish-per-rod average, although most were small in the 5- to 8-pound range and a few in the upper teens. Fair to good for kings in the San Juan Islands. Hood Canal south of Ayock Point is open for salmon. Northern Puget Sound and Admiralty Inlet are open for coho only and open for hatchery kings on July 16. Crab fishing is open in most areas of Puget Sound and Hood Canal; check for specific days fishing is allowed during the week. Next upcoming low tide series in Puget Sound and Hood Canal best for gathering clams and oysters begins Wednesday through July 15. Southern Puget Sound south of the Narrows Bridge is open daily for crabbing and has been fair, but slow for hatchery kings. The Edmonds Pier picked up for kings.

Biting: YesRating: ★★★  
Statewide riversThe Lower Columbia River below Bonneville Dam is open for hatchery adult chinook from Thursday to Sunday only, and open for sockeye from Thursday through July 31. Anglers may also keep hatchery jack chinook, but must release adult chinook beginning July 7. Fall chinook fishing in the Lower Columbia River reopens Aug. 1, including the Buoy 10 area. Good in Cowlitz for summer steelhead. Fair in Skykomish for summer steelhead, and improved for hatchery chinook as returns to the Wallace Hatchery are peaking. Lower Columbia fading for shad below Bonneville Dam. Fair to good for walleye and bass in The Dalles and John Day pools of Columbia.
Biting: YesRating: ★★★  
Statewide lakesIn Whatcom County, Depression Lake was planted June 25 with 3,890 trout. In Skamania County, Council Lake was planted June 24 with 3,317 trout. Other lakes planted within the past two weeks were Gissburg Ponds and Lake Goodwin in Snohomish County. Other planted lakes worth a try are Spearfish, Green, American, Rapjohn, Blackmans, Campbell and Padden. Good action for trout also happening at Mineral in Lewis; Sawyer, Rattlesnake, Walker, Beaver, Desire, and Meridian in King; Tanwax and Kapowsin in Pierce; and Duck and Aberdeen in Grays Harbor. For the latest trout plants go to Good at Potholes Reservoir for walleye, bass and trout. Lake Chelan is decent for lake trout and kokanee. Good for trout catch and release in Omak Lake. Fair for cutthroat trout in Lake Washington. Fair for kokanee in Stevens, American, Meridian and Roesiger.
Biting: YesRating: ★★★  

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780


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