It was great while it lasted, but the wildly popular Lake Washington sockeye fishery will end at noon Sunday.
Recreational fishermen had taken approximately 45,000 salmon through Wednesday, according to state Fish and Wildlife Department estimates, and will almost certainly catch the rest of their 62,000-plus quota over the weekend. The recreational harvest, and a similar number taken by Muckleshoot, Suquamish and Tulalip gillnetters, should easily provide for the 350,000-fish spawning escapement mandated by the department.
The recreational season reopened at noon Thursday, after two nights of commercial fishing, and hours for anglers have been shortened to make sure the quota is not exceeded. The remaining season runs today, Saturday and Sunday from an hour before sunrise to noon.
The early morning hours have been the most productive for trolling anglers, by far, so the compromise provides the best portion of the weekend for recreationists.
Salmon managers say the catch of 45,000 sockeye in the first seven days of the recreational season could be a record for the Lake Washington fishery, and that the outlook for the remaining days should be fair to good.
The catch rate has dropped from about one and a half fish per person on the July 4 opener to about half a fish per person. That’s still a pretty good average, as Western Washington salmon fishing goes.
The daily limit is two sockeye per person, which must be entered immediately on a salmon catch record card.
Biologists say the outlook for a season on the lake is positive for next year, as well. Ocean survival has improved since the demise of El Nio, and the number of sockeye fingerlings migrating to sea two years ago – from which next year’s adults will return – was excellent.