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The first two days of Lake Washington sockeye counts have started off strong at the Ballard Locks fish ladder.

Through Thursday, 5,202 sockeye have been counted that are headed for tributaries such as the Cedar River and other smaller creeks in Lake Washington.

“I’m optimistic there might be more sockeye than predicted,” said Pat Pattillo, the state Fish and Wildlife salmon policy coordinator. “It is such a dynamic run, and we can’t make anything of the first two days of counting.”

This summer’s forecast of 96,866 sockeye falls well short of the 350,000 spawning escapement needed before any fisheries can be considered.

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“We are off to a good start, the best since 2005,” said Frank Urabeck, a member of the Cedar River Council and sport fishing advocate. “Sockeye could be early, although what we have seen so far is encouraging.”

Only 17 million sockeye fry entered the lake from Cedar River in 2010, survivors of which would be 4-year-old adults coming back this summer.

The last time Lake Washington was open for sport sockeye fishing was 2006 when 453,543 fish returned. In 2009, the actual return dipped to 22,166 sockeye.

Other years a fishery was held include 2004, 2002, 2000 and 1996. Last summer, 145,815 returned compared to a preseason forecast of 45,871. More than 20 million fry were released into the lake earlier this spring.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or