Sockeye fishing on Baker Lake not living up to billing

By Wayne Kruse

For The Herald

The Baker Lake recreational sockeye fishery is not living up to its billing this summer, according to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Brett Barkdull. Success rates on the lake have fallen off badly and it appears that there will be no late surge of fish to pick it up.

“The run came in pretty well early on,” Barkdull said, “but there doesn’t seem to be any backside.”

He said that a total of about 23,000 salmon were transferred from the Baker River trap to the lake last year. As of Sunday, the 2017 transfer stood at 8,235 and he estimated the total would come in at about 10,000 fish, less than half that of 2016. The peak of the run was probably in mid-July, when daily trap numbers were running 800 to 900 fish, compared to 40-60 fish recently.

Barkdull said the success rate for anglers over the weekend was probably one sockeye for each three or four boats — not great fishing.

The best areas, and that’s not saying much, were off Noisy Creek on the upper end of the lake (above Swift Creek and above “the elbow”), and right in front of the dam, straight across from the launch.

The standard rig is a pink mini-squid tipped with shrimp, but Barkdull said he has had better luck with a Smile Blade above red beads.

Johnny Stavensjord at Hooked On Toys in Wenatchee said WDFW did not open the Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery last week as everyone had expected, instead opting for a reassessment of the run early this week.

“So everyone’s still waiting,” Stavensjord said Tuesday morning.

State biologist Travis Maitland said the Tumwater Dam counts of Lake Wenatchee sockeye reached the 23,000 fish needed for escapement, but then plummeted before providing a harvestable excess. He said the outlook for a fishery happening is “pretty dismal,” but that he would wait until the end of the week to make sure there is no late sockeye surge before officially giving up on it.

Neither will there be a sockeye fishery this year in the Brewster Pool on the Columbia, but the chinook season there has been a good one so far, Stavensjord said. This is the first time in four years that anglers are allowed a wild chinook (and one hatchery fish in a two-chinook limit).

These kings can be big. Stavensjord said a 36-pounder was taken recently, and he caught a 28-pounder a week ago. Standard rig is an 11-inch flasher with a Super Bait or Super Cut Plug in (ready for this?) Mountain Dew or rotten banana color patterns.

The sockeye count at the Ballard Locks in Seattle was 129,100 as of July 30, with 350,000 needed for escapement, and a harvestable surplus, to open a fishery in Lake Washington. Not going to happen.

Local salmon

With marine areas 8-1 and 8-2 closed to salmon, and area 9 limited to shore fishing only, marine area 10 becomes the go-to water in our backyard. Action picked up over the weekend in that area (roughly Edmonds-Seattle), according to All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein of Everett. State creel checks seemed to bear that out: On Saturday, checks at the Edmonds Marina showed 39 anglers with nine chinook and 10 coho, and at the Port of Everett ramp (from area 10), 42 anglers with seven chinook and three coho. On Sunday the Everett ramp check was 59 anglers with 11 chinook and three coho.

Krein said Richmond Beach, Kingston and Jefferson Head were the better spots, for chinook going 8 to 15 pounds.

About the only viable saltwater options for coho and pinks are the Tulalip Bubble (boats allowed) and a few shore fisheries. One of those is from the “bait box” to the park on the southeast corner of Whidbey Island and, perhaps the best shore opportunity for pinks, Picnic Point.

The Snohomish will be the only local river open for pinks, and he doesn’t expect fishable numbers until probably Aug. 15, if then.

Coastal salmon

State checks at Ilwaco last week counted 2,900 anglers with a little over one coho per rod and one chinook for about six rods; Westport, 4,300 anglers with under a half-chinook per person and about three coho per four rods; and Neah Bay, 1,200 with about a half-chinook per rod, a half-coho per rod, and 162 pinks.


“I’m afraid it’s one of those years,” said WDFW biologist Don Velasquez about this summer’s slow recreational crabbing season. Crabbers are not doing very well anywhere, but the fishery is practically non-existent in marine areas 10, 11 and 13. He hasn’t heard much from the San Juan Islands (marine area 7) either, but said it’s been probably average.

He’s had complaints from areas 8-1 and 8-2 that they’re becoming “crabbed out.”

“But I’ve also heard from some folks that they’re getting their crab — it’s just taking them a lot longer,” he said.

The recreational crab summer season in areas 8-1 and 8-2 is scheduled to run through Sept. 4, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Hunt seasons

The WDFW is soliciting comments on proposed alternatives for 2018-20 hunting seasons, posted on the agency website, where the public can comment on the proposals. Comments will be accepted through Aug. 31.

Comments received from the public will be used to develop specific recommendations for 2018-20 hunting seasons, which will be available for further review in January.

Final recommendations will be presented to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for adoption in the spring of 2018.

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