The Lake Washington and Columbia River sockeye counts continue to soar, and many are crossing their fingers that this is just the start of what could be remarkable returns.
Through Sunday (June 19), 3,424 sockeye have been counted at the Ballard Locks fish ladder.
“It will be an exciting summer to watch the counts, and we’d like something good to hope for as we move forward,” said Aaron Bosworth, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
The single-day count on Sunday was the highest so far this season with 665 sockeye. Other counts were 193 sockeye on June 12; 420 on June 13; 303 on June 14; 315 on June 15; 389 on June 16; 644 on June 17; and 495 on June 18.
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At this same time frame in previous years cumulative sockeye counts at the popular tourist viewpoint were 862 in 2015; 533 in 2014; 24,089 in 2013; 13,577 in 2012; 3,452 in 2011; 6,756 in 2010; 3,931 in 2009; 3,653 in 2008; 6,595 in 2007; 6,623 in 2006; and 4,390 in 2005.
The Lake Washington sockeye forecast this summer is a conservative figure of 119,215 (88,546 of hatchery origin and 30,759 wild).
The last time Lake Washington was open for sport sockeye fishing was 2006, when 453,543 returned. Other years a fishery was held included 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1996.
The current spawning escapement goal is 350,000, but state and tribal fish managers have pretty much agreed on lowering the goal to 200,000. A decision on the change could be announced if the in-season count is likely to be achieved.
Bosworth said last week there is an outside chance we could see a run that is more than 200,000 fish.
“If we get a good survival rate it might even go as high as 300,000 or 400,000 fish,” Bosworth said.
Usually the historical midpoint of the lake’s sockeye run has been from June 29 to July 14.
The sockeye counts on the Columbia River at Bonneville Dam continue to climb upward and have not passed the preseason forecast figure, and is still on a record pace not seen since 1938.
Through Sunday, 112,554 sockeye have been counted at Bonneville, and is steadily climbing up the record ladder which was 648,361 in 2014, and the runner-up was last year’s total of 512,500.
“It is still a record, and has passed the forecast (101,600 was the expectation this summer), and there are more to come,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
“They are catching some in the Lower Columbia mainstem, and the commercial fishery also caught some as well,” Hymer said. “The run seems to still be building momentum.”
Typically the return peak counts at Bonneville are around July 1.
The single-day sockeye counts at Bonneville were 22,142 on Sunday; 12,899 on Saturday; 14,064 on Friday; 12,243 on Thursday; and 10,477 on Wednesday.
Another sockeye run many have their eyes glued on is the Baker River, where the forecast calls for 55,054 fish.
Currently 97 have been counted at the Baker fish trap, and 89 of those fish have already been transported up to Baker Lake.
Single-day counts at the Baker fish trap are four sockeye on Sunday (June 19); three on Saturday; 19 on Friday; 19 on June 16; 27 on June 15; 17 on June 14; one on June 13; one on June 12; none on June 11; four on June 10; and two on June 9.
Once federal and state fisheries announce salmon seasons — which should happen around June 24 — Baker Lake will open for sockeye in mid-July through early September, and Skagit River will open in late June through July 15 with a 4,600 sockeye catch guideline.