WDFW Schedules May Lake Wash. Sockeye Workshop

In the California Delta, longfin smelt are in so much trouble that they warrant an “uplisting” from threatened to endangered, federal managers say, though they decided against doing so earlier this month.

Six hundred miles due north in Lake Washington, populations of the thin, 7-inch-long silvery fish have grown large enough that in some years they appear to be reducing the survival of young sockeye which fuel a hugely popular Seattle backyard fishery when the adults return.

But there are other factors at play too in why the salmon’s runs aren’t measuring up to what they were in the 1970s and 1980s.

A recently released independent review of the big lake’s natural and hatchery sockeye populations and their productivity talks about what’s going on, and now WDFW wants to talk about the 65-page document’s findings at a public workshop May 26.

“This information provides a starting point for discussions with tribal co-managers, our constituents and other stakeholders about future sockeye salmon management in Lake Washington,” said Jim Scott, assistant director of WDFW’s fish program, in a press release this afternoon. “We’d like to hear from anglers and others interested in Lake Washington sockeye as we look into the productivity of these fish in the watershed and how we currently manage our sockeye fisheries there.”

Fishing for the tasty salmon had reliably occurred every even year between 2000 and 2006, but since then runs have been too low for any seasons. This year’s forecast is for 123,000 to return, well below the current goal of 350,000 spawners.

Among other things, the “Cedar River and Lake Washington Sockeye Salmon Biological Reference Point Estimates,” authored by Scott McPherson of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and James C. Woodey, Ph.D., a fisheries consultant, finds that:

odd-year sockeye are less productive than even-year fish;

fry tend to hit Lake Washington too soon — “before or early in the spring bloom period, potentially placing the fry at risk due to suboptimal food resources for large populations entering in the south end of the lake”;

and that much more study is called for.

The meeting is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. at WDFW’s Issaquah Hatchery, 125 W Sunset Way.

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