Tag Archives: frank urabeck

Baker Sockeye Anglers Renew Call To Manage Fishery With Runsize Buffer

With a lower than expected salmon run leaving them again feeling shorted, some anglers are renewing calls for a Columbia River springer-style fisheries buffer on sockeye headed to a North Cascades reservoir.

Baker Lake reds were supposed to provide sport and tribal fishermen 12,400 fish each, but while members of the latter fleet were able to harvest 12,176, the former’s haul could ultimately come in around just 56 percent of the quota.

FRANK URABECK AND GRANDSON ALEC SCHANTZ SHOW OFF FIVE SOCKEYE FROM BAKER LAKE. URABECK REPORTS THIS YEAR’S FISH ARE TOUGH FIGHTERS. (FRANK URABECK)

Frank Urabeck, a longtime advocate of recreational fisheries, estimates that when it’s all said and done, it’s “likely” that Skagit River plunkers and Baker Lake trollers will have put somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 sockeye on their barbecues, 5,400 fewer than the preseason agreement allowed, and nearly 5,200 fewer than Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle fishermen took.

It’s also in part due to our less efficient methods and that it gets tougher to catch the fish as they near spawning, but the harvest disparity “could have been avoided had (the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) adopted in-season harvest management improvement proposals put forth by CCA and others,” a press release from Urabeck states.

This year’s seasons were set on the expectation 35,002 sockeye would come back, but after tribal fishermen hit Skagit Bay and the lower river it begin to become apparent that fewer of the salmon were actually returning, somewhere around 30,000. Over 14,450 have been tallied at the Baker River fish trap and nearly 6,850 have been transported up to the lake.

It’s led Puget Sound Anglers President Ron Garner to renew the call to use something like the 30-percent set aside on the Columbia in case the ESA-listed spring Chinook run doesn’t come in as predicted.

That effectively reduces how many kings are available in the early portion of the season until managers are comfortable that preseason predictions will be met, or exceeded, and can reopen angling if enough fish are available.

“Under today’s complex salmon fisheries layout there are many problems in dividing fish as each area presents its own set of problems of how to secure equity,” said Garner in a press release. “Baker Lake sockeye is one fishery where we have the ability to do that using the Puget Sound Energy Baker River fish trap at Concrete, where Skagit Basin tribes can secure make-up sockeye, if needed, beyond what is achieved from net fishing.”

He says in years when the run comes in low, inequities can be avoided or minimized using the buffer.

Last fall, when the sockeye issue came before the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staffers appeared hesitant to institute a buffer because of perceived tribal pushback over the potential for not being able to harvest their share. They wanted to try improved forecasting and opening more of the Skagit to fishing to achieve a closer balance.

“Unfortunately, while advocated by sport fishing groups, the department chose not to pursue a buffer, resulting in a significant disparity again. A buffer has to be part of harvest management next year,” Garner said.

Others expressing frustration over the issue include Al Senyohl of the Steelhead Trout Club of Washington, Nello Picinich of Coastal Conservation Association of Washington, and Roger Goodan of CCA Washington’s North Sound Chapter.

Urabeck says that this year’s imbalance means the tribes will have caught 24,000 more sockeye than sports since 2013.

But WDFW appears to be taking the long view. While Urabeck calls the 2010 and ’11 seasons “outliers,” state managers point out that between 2010 and 2017, the score was actually pretty close, 98,390 treaty fishermen, 94,737 recreational anglers.

And they say it’s likely to even out over time and even sway in our way if we see more big years like 2012, ’13 and ’14.

As for dipping into the fish trap, that’s likely a nonstarter with tribal fishermen. I hear over and over they want to fish the way they want to fish, and that means with a net, not lining up for a salmon handout.

Ultimately it’s in everybody’s best interest to get the forecast right the first time, though that is easier said than done.

Sportfishing Leaders React To 2018 Salmon Seasons

Northwest salmon anglers are digesting news from the just-concluded season-setting process, which brought — as it always does — a mix of tasty, so-so and stomach-turning results.

Puget Sound and Southern Oregon anglers should be happier than in recent years, Washington Coast and Buoy 10 fishermen will be somewhat disappointed, and Skokomish River egg drifters are gnashing their teeth — again.

SILVER SALMON ANGLERS FISH AMIDST A BLIZZARD OF SEAGULLS AT POSSESSION BAR DURING 2014’S EVERETT COHO DERBY. THE PAST TWO YEARS’ DERBIES HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO RESTRICTED FISHERIES, BUT THIS YEAR’S LOOKS TO BE BACK ON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Those are very broad brush strokes and we’ll all be able to drill deeper into the details of Chinook and coho seasons as the days and weeks go by and the LOAF, or list of agreed-to fisheries, is posted, singling out our waters for their 2018 opportunities or looking elsewhere for different ones.

In the meanwhile, there’s some reason for optimism in the sportfishing community, including from Gabe Miller, who says there’s “a lot to look forward to this season, particularly in the Puget Sound region.”

“We are looking at substantially more coho opportunity than we have the past few years, especially in North Puget Sound,” says Miller, who works at Sportco in Fife and is vice president of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “Another bright spot is South Sound Chinook, which should provide anglers with plenty of harvest opportunity this summer and through the fall.”

He said that in the wake of 2016’s and 2017’s fishery restrictions, which affected coho the hardest, 2018’s seasons “should look a little more like what anglers were used to seeing in the past.”

A WDFW CHART OUTLINES MARINE AREA FISHERY TIMING FOR CHINOOK AND COHO. (WDFW)

Mark Yuasa, the boating and fishing director for the Seattle-based Northwest Marine Trade Association, said that these days salmon anglers need to be mobile with their boats.

“I’m pretty happy about what’s in store for anglers in late-summer and early-fall for coho fishing in Puget Sound, which is something we haven’t had for several years. We’ll also have some decent summer Chinook fisheries in certain areas,” he said.

While Puget Sound salmon are rebounding from the Blob, Columbia River Chinook are still in a bit of a rough patch, with this year’s Washington and North Oregon Coast quota dropping by 40 percent.

That’s not the best of news for Astoria, Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay, but there will still be good numbers of salmon caught out here, thanks to a coho quota of 42,000, the same amount as last year and which held up into early September.

“We are cautiously optimistic with the seasons set for Marine Area 1 and the Columbia River,” says Liz Hamilton, NSIA’s executive director. “The managers did a good job at getting close to management objectives, and we are hoping the seasons proceed as planned. The numerous stock constraints this year were challenging. With any luck, the upriver brights will show enough strength by mid-September to provide some extra fishing time to the river above Buoy 10.”

“Fingers crossed,” she added.

GUIDE BOB REES NETS A CHINOOK AT BUOY 10. THIS YEAR’S FISHERY WILL BE A DEPARTURE FROM RECENT ONES, WHAT WITH ITS ONE-SALMONID LIMIT FROM AUG. 1-24 DUE TO ONE OF THE SMALLER RETURNS OF THE PAST DECADE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Well south of the mouth of the big river, Chinook anglers will be able to get back on the ocean between Humbug Mountain and the California border, which was closed last year, and ODFW is touting a “strong forecast” of fall kings back to the Rogue as one of the coast’s “bright” spots.

Oregon Coast coho are down, but there’s still enough for a 35,000 hatchery silver quota, with limited September fishing for wild and clipped coho.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the biologists and run modelers and fishery managers are breathing a collective sigh of relief that, finally, it’s all over, and the whole pile of paperwork is now headed for the feds’ desk for them to, hopefully, make faster work than they have with the Skagit-Sauk steelhead sign-off.

At least one state source says that this year’s extraordinary “plenary session,” which brought Washington and tribal fisheries leaders together last week, was a “huge success” and played a key role in helping the comanagers reach an agreement on schedule.

THE STILLAGUAMISH TRIBE’S SEAN YANNITY SPEAKS DURING THE PLENARY SESSION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

In 2016, talks between the state and tribes dragged on for a month and a half before a deal was struck.

“This year there was a feeling of unity among all parties involved in a process that has long been a bitter battle filled with arguments, cultural indifference and over who was going to catch that ‘last salmon’ dating back to the Boldt Decision,” said NMTA’s Yuasa. “It was a good feeling to get everyone for the most part on the same table to address issues for the upcoming fishing seasons and save salmon populations, which are an iconic piece of Northwest history. We all need to swallow a bitter pill from time to time, but in the end you’ll find some exciting fishing this year.”

He was on hand during that one-hour say-what-you-wish confab in which sport and tribal fishermen talked about the importance of salmon habitat, heritage and the problems of pinnipeds.

So too was Tom Nelson, cohost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line. He expressed mixed feelings about what he heard in that packed Lynnwood hotel room and what eventually came out of another in Portland.

THE OUTDOOR LINE HOST TOM NELSON (RIGHT) LISTENS AS NWIFC’S LORRAINE LOOMIS SPEAKS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“I’m disappointed that the nontribal part of the allocation took the biggest part of the cut and the Makahs will keep fishing at the same level as last year,” he said on a last-minute Chinook hangup yesterday. “Even a token movement on their behalf would have given something to the feeling of the plenary session.”

Essentially, impact rates on low mid-Hood Canal Chinook stocks put Puget Sound fisheries in jeopardy, so state managers reduced the coastal king guideline and there were losses in Areas 8-1 and 9.

“That said, we’re going coho fishing in Admiralty Inlet in September,” Nelson said.

That’s the best place, by catch stat, to put out herring strips or cast from the beach for silvers in late summer. Last year it wasn’t even available to boaters, and only through Labor Day for shore fishers, due to very low forecasted Skagit and Stillaguamish coho returns.

And while Nelson called losing September Chinook fishing in the San Juan Islands “brutal,” he noted it would help address starving orca issues, as Fraser-bound kings are a key feedstock for the marine mammals.

The Makah Tribe’s Russ Svec was among those who spoke during the plenary session, saying, “Today is a good day to see everyone talking with one voice.”

But one person who wasn’t buying the good feels was longtime sportfishing advocate Frank Urabeck, who was angry that there still is no resolution to the Skokomish River problem, which leaves recreational anglers unable to access state-hatchery-reared Chinook and coho in the southern Hood Canal stream.

“What is a shame is that the other Puget Sound tribes let this happen, making a mockery of the recent NOF state/tribal ‘Kumbaya’ plenary session,” Urabeck said.

A SIGN POSTED ALONG THE SKOKOMISH RIVER BY THE SKOKOMISH TRIBE WARNS ANGLERS AWAY FROM THE BANKS AS 2016’S RETURN OF CHINOOK TO THE STATE HATCHERY FILL THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

He also laid blame at the feet of WDFW Fish Program Manager Ron Warren and other state officials for failing to get the fishery restarted, and expressed doubt that it’s all about a reservation boundary dispute for the Skokomish Tribe.

“It is more likely there are other self-interest reasons and the tribe is just using the land ownership claim to significantly increase their harvest of Chinook salmon, including ESA-listed natural origin fish,” Urabeck said.

He’d gone so far as to call for a new nontribal commercial fishery in Hood Canal, where fall Chinook can otherwise be difficult for recreational anglers to catch, to access the state share.

Urabeck claimed that some observers feel the river has been lost to sport fishing and said that many anglers don’t feel public money should fund WDFW’s George Adams hatchery.

FRANK URABECK, LEFT, CHECKS HIS NOTES DURING A RALLY HELD AT THE STATE OF WASHINGTON’S GEORGE ADAMS SALMON HATCHERY THE FIRST SUMMER THAT THE SKOKOMISH WAS NOT OPEN FOR SPORT FISHING DUE TO A CLAIM THAT THE ENTIRE WIDTH OF THE RIVER WAS PART OF THE SKOKOMISH RESERVATION. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Radio’s Nelson might have summed up the whole months-long salmon-season-setting process best for all parties.

“Every North of Falcon you’re sort of left with that kissing-your-sister feeling,” he quipped.

He reiterated his support for working with the tribes on a host of problems facing Western Washington salmon.

“Now let’s move forward from here with the tribes,” Nelson said. “Let’s reach out to the Stillys [Stillaguamish Tribe] and stand shoulder to shoulder with them” on a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner’s recent proposed conservation hatchery and marine predation issues.

Baker, Skokomish Sockeye Issues Raised With Washington Fish Commission

Sockeye issues are boiling to a head in Western Washington.

Sportfishing representatives went to the Fish and Wildlife Commission in late October to ask for a more equitable share of one river’s salmon.

And they expressed opposition to the use of eggs from those fish so a tribe elsewhere can try and jumpstart a run but in the meanwhile are blocking recreational fishermen from accessing state hatchery-raised Chinook and coho.

A SIGN POSTED ALONG THE SKOKOMISH RIVER BY THE SKOKOMISH TRIBE WARNS ANGLERS AWAY FROM THE BANKS AS 2016’S RETURN OF CHINOOK TO THE STATE HATCHERY FILLED THE RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

“This egg transfer program needs to be put on hold until the sportfishing harvest inequities for the Baker Lake sockeye run is addressed and the sport salmon fishery is reestablished on the Skokomish River,” Al Senyohl of the Steelhead Trout Club of Washington told the commission in late October. “What’s missing here in the whole equation is opportunity — opportunity for us to get our fair share on the Skagit River and opportunity for us to fish on the Skokomish River.”

Ultimately, Senyohl and others are trying to use whatever leverage they can to get more state focus on reopening the Skokomish, which was closed in 2016 and this year, and where some 35,000-plus surplus Chinook have returned to WDFW’s George Adams Hatchery this fall.

Fishing advocate Frank Urabeck reports that with the Skokomish Tribe having harvested 55,000 Chinook this year, he figures that if the river had been open, anglers might have caught as many as 15,000.

The Baker sockeye eggs come from several hundred fish captured at Puget Sound Energy’s Baker River trap and are part of a broader, longterm enrichment of salmon runs in southern Hood Canal as Tacoma Power updates their dams there.

But anglers are leery that they will ever be able to access those fish following on the Skokomish’s use of a federal solicitor’s opinion to take over the entire width of the river.

“Why are we rewarding a neighbor who is behaving badly? Why?” asked Norm Reinhart of the Kitsap Poggie Club. “I understand that the (sockeye) may not belong to WDFW, but we most certainly are supporting that transfer with our science and our staff. Why are we doing that?”

(For the state’s position, go here.)

It has angler advocates looking around for options.

“We’re going to have to play hardball again,” Ron Garner, state president of Puget Sound Anglers, told the commission.

Back up on the Skagit River, as sockeye runs have increased to the Baker in recent years, North Sound tribes and recreational anglers have benefited, but in two of the past four summers, there’s been a sharp harvest inequity in favor of the former fishermen.

That’s due to returns that have come in lower than preseason forecasts. While tribes fish to that forecast, it can mean far fewer sockeye are hauled up to Baker Lake, a prime sportfishing opportunity.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff outlined several possible ways to address that for the commission.

One idea is to use a Columbia River spring Chinook-like 30 percent run buffer before an inseason run update, but the agency appears hesitant to do that because of perceived tribal pushback because of potentially not being able to harvest their share.

Staffers appear to prefer improving run modeling and increasing the sport fishing area on the Skagit River to better balance the harvest.

But Urabeck wanted the commission to get involved.

“Given the complexity, seriousness of the situation, and inability so far for the Department to adequately address the harvest imbalance issues, we ask that the commission have your Fish Committee work with us and the department to achieve the cooperation of the affected Skagit Basin tribes to secure harvest fairness and equity,” Urabeck asked commissioners. “It might be appropriate to have the Fish Committee also take a look at the implementation plan for the transfer of Baker sockeye eyed eggs to the Skokomish Tribe’s Salt-water Park Sockeye Hatchery. We ask that you also could encourage (WDFW) Director (Jim) Unsworth and Governor (Jay) Inslee to renew their efforts with the Skokomish Tribe to allow Skokomish River sport salmon fishing to resume in 2018.”

Members of the Fish Committee include Vice Chair Larry Carpenter, Bob Kehoe, Dave Graybill and Kim Thorburn.

At least two expressed interest in taking some of the issues up. Carpenter noted that without other fishing opportunities on the Skagit in recent years, sockeye’s all that anybody — tribal and recreational alike — have really had.

Next Thursday, November 16, Tacoma Power is hosting a public meeting on Skokomish River salmon restoration. It will be held at the Cushman Fire Hall (240 North Standstill Drive) and begins at 6 p.m

Baker Sockeye On Commission Agenda

The agenda for next week’s Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is a meaty one, and one item that is sure to draw attention is Baker sockeye.

The North Sound salmon fishery has come under scrutiny following large catch disparities in two of the past four years.

WHILE FISHERMEN OF ALL FLEETS HAVE BEEN ENJOYING SURGING BAKER LAKE SOCKEYE RETURNS, SOME ARE ASKING FOR A FAIRER BALANCED HARVEST. (NMFS)

Sport anglers caught half or less than half of what local tribes did during the 2014 and 2017 seasons, and anglers like Frank Urabeck are looking for more of a 50-50 split.

He and three other sportfishing representatives will voice their concerns next Friday afternoon, after WDFW staffers brief the commission on how the Skagit River and Baker Lake fishery is managed and their take on ideas to rebalance the harvest.

A PDF posted ahead of the meeting provides many details about what will be talked about, and it appears to show that the imbalance can be greatest during years in which the run comes in below the preseason forecast. Recreational anglers fish a middle section of the lower Skagit — the tribes above and below there — and Baker Lake.

WDFW says that since 2010, the take has been roughly equal — 98,390 for treaty fishermen, 94,737 for sport anglers — but acknowledges that the harvest can become “highly skewed” in a given year and that there’s a “lack (of) timely data to adjust in-season harvest substantively.”

Agency staffers’ poposed solutions include:

• Technical Improvements
• Buffer Harvest Shares
• Conservative Preseason Planning
• Expanding River Opportunity

Each has pros and cons, with more fishing opportunity and tweaks to the forecasting model standing out, while the others face WDFW and likely tribal concerns.

Other items on the commission’s agenda include briefings on simplifying some of the sportfishing rules — primarily trout, bass, etc — northern pjke suppression efforts on Lake Roosevelt, WDFW’s proposed marketing plan, and more, plus a wolf management update and other news from Director Unsworth.

Carpenter Reappointed To WA Fish Commission, Retired PFMC Chief To Be Added

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will soon be back to full strength with the pending addition of a new member and reappointment of another to fill a recent departure.

Donald McIsaac, a retired longtime director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, has been appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the citizen panel that sets policy for and oversees the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

And Larry Carpenter, the vice chair, has been reappointed to Miranda Wecker’s seat.

“Their effective dates will be confirmed once we have received the required returned paperwork,” says Tara Lee, a spokeswoman in the Governor’s Office.

Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association says he’s known McIsaac for over three decades, and worked with him promoting Willapa Bay in the 1980s. He termed McIsaac “an outstanding selection” and a “fair, open-minded guy.”

“He’ll instantly become a very important, experienced and knowledgeable biological voice” on the commission, Floor said.

IN A SCREEN GRAB FROM C-SPAN 3, DONALD McISAAC SPEAKS BEFORE A CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE IN JANUARY 2014. (C-SPAN)

PFMC, or the Pacific Council, manages fisheries off the West Coast, including salmon, and includes representatives from all three states.

When McIsaac retired after 15 years as its director, he was called “a very positive leader” by an Oregon board member, according to a 2015 article by the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.

“Through his tenure, he has brought together staff that is very strong and supports the Council well. He’s been tireless in his dedication to the Council and Council process and making sure we have the resources to do good Council policy,” Dorothy Lowman told the Seattle-based organization.

Prior to that, McIsaac worked for the Washington Department of Fisheries and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as a field biologist.

These days he runs DMA Consulting, which advises clients on fishery conservation and management issues.

As for Carpenter’s reappointment, Frank Urabeck, a longtime sportfishing advocate, said he was among those who was pleased with it.

“That act alone gives the recreational fishing community some hope there is still a chance we can correct so much of what has gone wrong in recent years that resulted in significant erosion of sport fishing opportunity,” he said this morning.

Chief among Urabeck’s beefs is the loss of the Skokomish River salmon fishery, fueled by the state Chinook and coho hatchery.

LARRY CARPENTER. (WDFW)

Urabeck termed Carpenter, the former owner of Master Marine in Mount Vernon, as “the most accessible member of the commission” — Carpenter has been a frequent guest on 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line.

He said Carpenter is able to “work with all the players” and is the “most respected, most knowledgeable about fish management issues, and has the experience and capability to provide the leadership desperately needed right now.”

Technically, McIsaac is taking over Carpenter’s Western Washington position, and Carpenter is taking over Wecker’s Western Washington position.

Wecker announced her resignation late last month, and last weekend’s meeting was her last on the commission.

She had been on the board for 12 years, including a long stint as its chair, and her time was marked by thoughtful balancing of harvest and conservation.

“Nothing but gold stars for her,” praised Floor.

Her term was set to run through 2018; Carpenter will serve it out, and then, importantly, would need to be reappointed to remain on the commission.

Lake Washington Sockeye Count Tops 110,000, But Declining

The odds of a Lake Washington sockeye fishery this year — long to begin with — seem remoter still with today’s updated count unless somehow hesitant salmon managers acquiesce to a Hail Mary bid.

A total of 111,509 have passed through the Ballard Locks since the tally began June 12, and the year’s best days appear to be behind us.

IT’S BEEN 11 YEARS SINCE THE LAST LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE FISHERY, AND DESPITE CALLS FOR AN “OLD TIMES SAKE” SEASON THIS YEAR, THAT’S INCREASINGLY UNLIKELY WITH THE LATEST BALLARD LOCKS COUNTS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Nearly 7,500 were counted July 4, with 21,740 in the three days before and day afterwards.

But since then daily counts have dipped to 2,772 Wednesday and 2,271 yesterday.

The run has typically peaked by now, though of note 2006 didn’t hit its midmark till mid-July.

If there’s good news, it’s that the forecast of 77,292 was wrong, and there does appear to be some softening on the standing escapement goal of 350,000 sockeye to trigger sport and commercial tribal fisheries.

According to a recent WDFW letter, talks have been ongoing with the comanagers about “a new abundance-based management framework that allows for some directed fisheries at run-sizes of 200,000 or greater.”

Written July 7, the communique from Director Jim Unsworth expresses cautious optimism that that figure might be reached.

But Frank Urabeck, a longtime recreational angling advocate who closely watches the counts, now estimates the run will come in somewhere north of 130,000, which is above the 100,000 that he hoped might trigger a “token, for old times’ sake” fishery on Lake Washington, where we haven’t seen a sockeye season since 2006.

Since then, an average of 78,000 — high: 2013’s 178,422; low: 2009’s 21,718 — have entered the locks with fewer still actually spawning.

By comparison, between 2006 and 1972, only three years saw 78,000 or fewer sockeye enter; even the bad salmon years of the mid-1990s were higher.

It’s believed that despite the new Seattle Public Utilities hatchery on the Cedar River, young sockeye are suffering increasing and strong predation in the lake and as they make their way through the Ship Canal, which also appears to be a thermal block for returning adults, leaving them more prone to disease.

This year’s run would also have been at sea during the fish-run-destroying Blob.

Among Urabeck’s aims is to draw attention to what he considers to be a failing run, and he sees this year’s return as what amounts to a last-gasp opportunity to get anglers on the lake and rally support for what once was a wonderful salmon fishery in the heart of the state’s biggest metropolis.

If you never had a chance to partake in it, it was the absolute best kind of insanity going.

Urabeck wants one last go.

“I encourage sportfishing anglers to contact Director Unsworth and the MIT to encourage them to avoid losing this special opportunity to gain public support for our fisheries programs,” he said this morning.

Unsworth, who wrote that Urabeck’s call for a season if the count hit 100,000 “certainly caught my attention,” agreed that Lake Washington salmon aren’t faring well, but was more optimistic about the future.

“It will be a challenging task, but the restoration of clear, clean, and swimmable water to Lake Washington in the 1960s shows what can be accomplished with our engaged and supportive public,” Unsworth states in the letter to Urabeck.

The director says that his agency as well as the tribes, county and utilities are “now implementing and advocating for the actions necessary to improve salmon survival in the Lake Washington basin.”

“In this urban setting, we will need to think ‘out-of-the-box’ to find solutions that provide for salmon in the future. In part, this will likely require rethinking how we use our hatcheries. As you recall, we joined with you and others in the Year-15 Comprehensive Review of the City of Seattle’s Habitat Conservation Plan in recommending new supplementation techniques that maximize fry-to-adult survival through a combination of extended rearing and delayed release timing,” Unsworth states.

Meanwhile, the Muckleshoot and Suquamish Tribes are holding their annual ceremonial and subsistence fisheries, with goals of 1,000 and 2,500 sockeye each, and yesterday saw dipnetting in the ladder as tribal biologists in conjunction with WDFW collected salmon for a longterm biological sampling program.

What the longterm health of the sportfishery holds is anyone’s guess, but at the moment, it is on life support at best this year.

Last Hurrah? Pessimistic Angler Wants To Open Lake Washington Sockeye One Final Time

A Washington sockeye angler is calling on WDFW to open Lake Washington this summer for a last-hurrah season if more than 100,000 of the salmon pass through the Ballard Locks.

We’re already nearly one-fifth of the way there, with 19,139 counted as of yesterday and the usual run peaks still ahead of us.

But it would be a sharp change from past fisheries, which haven’t been held until managers were sure 350,000 were entering the system, and would require tribal comanagers to sign off on.

IMAGES FROM THE LAST LAKE WASHINGTON SOCKEYE FISHERY, IN 2006. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Frank Urabeck, a long time fisheries activist, terms it a “token, for old times’ sake” opportunity in an email to WDFW Director Jim Unsworth and a number of agency honchos late this afternoon.

“Looking at the Cedar River wild and hatchery production data I am convinced this is last chance we will have for run to be this good and an opportunity to show what it once was like. Public deserves something given the significant imbalance in cumulative harvest as a result of the tribal C&S fisheries since 2006,” Urabeck writes.

He worries the system’s sockeye population may be past a “tipping point” to ever recover and host an opener at that higher return level.

It certainly feels like this is a fishery from bygone days, or at least the dawn of the Twitter and Facebook age.

While the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Tribes have had limited annual ceremonial and subsistence sockeye fisheries with a total catch Urabeck estimates at 30,000 to 40,000, it hasn’t been since 2006 that salmon mania has descended on the big water just east of Seattle.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Since then Urabeck and the rest of us have been on the sidelines, carefully watching the locks counts in hopes there might be enough, but always turning away disappointed, despite the promise of the new Seattle Public Utilities hatchery on the Cedar River, capable of cranking out 34 million sockeye fry.

Unfortunately, as they rear in the lake for a year, many if not most smolts are being eaten by piscivorous fish and other predators.

And returning adults are increasingly dying from disease after they pass from the locks to the lake through the too-warm, relatively shallow ship canal — 40 percent of Cedar-bound sockeye in both 2014 and 2015, according to the Muckleshoot Tribe.

Despite record hatchery fry production in 2012, which should have yielded as many as 500,000 adults, according to Urabeck, instead we saw one of the most abysmal returns on record, just 12,000 to 15,000 back to the Cedar.

But at the same time, recent years’ returns, including this one, were at sea through The Blob and most likely were affected like 2015’s pinks and coho, so it’s possible runs could bounce back with improving ocean conditions and increased control of freshwater predator species.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Still, hopes for slapping some homegrown sockeye on Seattle barbecues have been fizzling for some time.

So with the future looking grim in his eyes, Urabeck is calling for a couple days of fishing some time in late July or early August, and foresees a harvest of 10,000.

“The proposed special fishery would not have any significant impact on sockeye reaching the Cedar River and the sockeye hatchery operated by the City of Seattle, which has failed to meet expectations. Remember, the Cedar River sockeye were introduced from the Baker River and are under no ESA constraint,” he writes to Unsworth.

If the state and tribes get on board and enough sockeye actually arrive — the official forecast calls for 77,292 back to the locks and it’s hard to say whether 2017’s good start means the run is early or big or both — it could also give local tackle stores a much-needed shot in the arm after two deflating summers.

The 18-day 2006 season produced $8.6 million in economic benefits and a catch of 59,000 sockeye, according to WDFW.

We’ll fold in comment from the agency as it arrives.