SEATTLE – The number of sockeye salmon returning to Lake Washington this summer is one of the lowest on recent record, dashing chances of any recreational or commercial fishing this year in the area.
The Seattle Times reports that nearly 13,000 sockeye salmon have returned to the lake east of Seattle. The rate is on pace to meet the forecast of 19,000 salmon, not enough to grant a fishing season for the popular fish.
This year’s run is on pace to be just more than half of last year’s, which was 33,702 – the lowest on record since 1972. In 2007, 69,271 salmon returned.
Those numbers are drastic contrast to 2006, when the run numbered 453,543 and state authorities granted several days of fishing.
The first documented adult returns to Lake Washington were in 1940 when 9,099 sockeye were counted.
“We are in a hole and we need to get out of it, my hope is that if things turn around in the ocean, then these fish have a capability of coming back fast,” said longtime sport-fishing activist Frank Urabeck of Bonney Lake.
Biologists are unable to pinpoint the reason for the sharp drops, but some say poor food-production conditions could be a factor.
In order to allow fishing, at least 350,000 fish have to make it through the Ballard Locks in Seattle. That’s where the Puget Sound meets the fresh water lakes of the Seattle area. “They are great eating, and you get mom and pop and old folks in anything that floats,” Urabeck said. “It’s just an incredible time.”