Sockeye are still on their way, but the latest numbers from the Baker River show that the 2011 run already has topped all previous years.
“It is officially the best ever,” confirms local fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull this afternoon.
Through Sunday, 24,201 have returned to the trap on the Skagit River tributary, nearly 4,000 better than the previous high mark, 2003′s 20,235.
A total of 15,915 have been hauled up to and released into Baker Lake, where anglers have begun to dial in the fishery which opened for the first time last summer.
“It’s better than a fish a rod. It’s better than the best it got last year in terms of fish per rod,” says Barkdull. “There’s a higher percentage of guys catching fish this season.”
The inaugural season saw a few “haves” and many “have nots,” he says.
Cooler water temps and higher reservoir levels this year have spread the fish out; a thermocline has not formed, he says.
The season is open until further notice.
The count at the trap will continue to grow, but Barkdull says the run is “over the hump.”
The Lake Washington sockeye run has also exceeded the preseason forecast by roughly 8,000 fish.
The Tumwater Dam count below Lake Wenatchee is at all of 18 fish; the 10-year average for this date is 17,565.
Good things are expected to continue at Baker Lake, where new juvenile fish collection equipment and other measures have yielded great outmigrating classes. Dam operators anticipate returns of 50,000 to 75,000 sockeye a year in the future.