Baker Lake Sockeye To Open

What’s the third most popular search phrase that’s led folks to our Web site over the past month?

“baker lake sockeye 2011”

It’s about to jump to number 1, topping pike and deer.

Word early this afternoon is that there’s enough sockeye headed back to the North Puget Sound reservoir that state managers will be able to open it Saturday for the scrumptious salmon.

You will, of course, want to watch for the official e-reg notice from WDFW HQ, but our understanding is that the daily limit may be three adult (18-inch-or-better) sockeye and the two-pole endorsement would be allowed on the fishery, according to district fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull in La Conner. All other salmon must be released

The catch code for the lake is 825.

CAROLINE SANDERS NABBED THIS SOCKEYE AT BAKER LAKE LAST SUMMER. (WRIGHT & McGILL/EAGLE CLAW PHOTO CONTEST)

WDFW’s new Baker Lake Web site shows that through last Friday, July 15, a total of 804 sockeye had been trucked up to the lake from the trap on the Baker River, where 4,460 had checked in, but according to Mark Yuasa’s article earlier today, the latest tally of salmon in the lake was 1,300 with 300 more needed to meet escapement targets.

As of Mark’s writing, Monday’s count had yet to be tallied, but since then Northwest Sportsman has learned that 1,000 came in.

The preseason forecast is for just shy of 24,000.

Last year, 14,239 returned to the trap, prompting the first-ever season at the lake.

This summer there are new boat ramp policies from the U.S. Forest Service to be aware of, and which we’ve blogged about previously. WDFW has also linked to USFS info on their site.

Officials are asking anglers to be aware that there are campers near all of the boat ramps and to launch as quietly as possible. The USFS heard complaints from “ticked off campers” following last season.

According to Barkdull, the fishery will be open until further notice.

We’ve got a huge ol’ write-up map feature in our July issue, out on the newsstands now. To quoth ourselves:

LAST SEASON on the 3,100-acre impoundment below iconic Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan, there was an extreme catch inequality: You were either among the few haves or the many have-nots. Call it socke-alism, but we aim to redistribute the wealth here.

“It’s a technique fishery. If you get it figured out, they bite pretty good. You gotta have the right presentation and the right speed and the right depth,” says Barkdull, who admits to being “just barely in the haves.”

One private boat in particular seemed to have it dialed in perfectly.

“They were a machine out there,” he says.

Afterwards, he chatted up one of the crew and was told that not only did the bite change by the day, but by the hour.

RYAN BENNETT was also amongst the havemores, perhaps because of how he focused on boat speed, bait size and how water flowing through the upper lake affected his setup.

“I was throwing the wind socks out to keep my speed down,” says the owner of Reel Deal Guide Service (360-840-1155). “There’s the current in the lake. I think that threw people – dodgers spinning instead of turning.”

Fishing exclusively with downriggers, he targeted water as little as 11 feet down early in the morning to as deep as 67 feet. He used an 8-inch Sling Blade from Shasta Tackle, but pulled a Gary Miralles, modifying the dodger.

“I peeled the stickers off and fished it in all chrome,” he says.

Bennett tried all the usual baits, but the ol’ red-hook trick that sockeye anglers learned from a commercial fisherman working the San Juans decades ago – and helped along to widespread fame by our Dave Workman, then on the desk of Washington Fishing & Hunting News – didn’t work as well.
“I caught them on all the standards, but the fish came on larger presentations,” Bennett tips.

So, what, a U20 FlatFish?

“A little bit, a little bit, but not a whole lot.”

Bennett is loath to give all his tricks away, but says he stuffed pink Silver Horde Gold Star Mini Sardine FG 193s with dough bait.

“I was just literally rolling up PowerBait into a ball, just like trout fishing, and shoving it in the squid,” he says.

John used bait at times as well, a sand shrimp or cocktail shrimp on a double-barehook setup.

As with other sockeye anglers, he too stresses the slow approach, from .7 to 1.2 mph speed over ground.

“An electric motor is almost a must,” John says.

By the end of the season he says he was adding a Mack’s Lures Smile Blade, which turns at very slow speeds, in front of his hooks.

That said, sockeye are flukey fish. Kicking up his speed a half a knot one day, Barkdull suddenly found himself in fresh socks.

“We sat there and limited in front of 80 other boats not catching anything. Just that little change, four in a half an hour,” he says.

John adds that you can go with or without scent, but if you do use it, try shrimp or krill.

IF 2011 FOLLOWS 2010, the best spot will be about halfway down the shank of Baker Lake’s dogleg right.

“About 99 percent of the fish were in front of Noisy Creek,” says John.

For more, please pick up our July issue!

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