Baker Lake Sockeye Opener Postponed
Updated 8:15 p.m., Wednesday, July 7, 2021
With the run only trickling in so far this summer, the opening of sockeye fishing at Baker Lake has been pushed back from this Saturday.
Just nine of the sea-going salmon have been transferred into the Whatcom County reservoir so far, per WDFW’s return-tracking webpage, and that would’ve made for some pretty slow trolling if the lake had opened as scheduled July 10.
Instead, the earliest it may now open is July 17, though it could also be later too, according to the state’s regional fishing manager Edward Eleazer.
An emergency rule change notice out late this afternoon said “WDFW will continue to monitor sockeye returns to the lake and will re-evaluate opening retention of sockeye after July 16.”
Eleazer said that by delaying the season, he hopes to “build the sockeye population up in the lake and create a better fishery.”
Sportfishing advocate Frank Urabeck said it made sense to postpone the opener. He wondered what was going on in the Pacific that may be limiting sockeye returns in recent years.
After a very slow start since June 1, fish counts have at least been picking up at the trap downstream near the mouth of the Baker River the last three days, with a big surge of 1,074 today.
Through Wednesday, along with the nine sockeye shipped to the lake, another 1,852 sockeye have been transferred for hatchery broodstock purposes and 409 shipped to a spawning beach on the system.
The overall hatchery and natural spawning goal is 10,000 sockeye.
While this year’s forecast of 12,253 is on the low side, a June 18 emergency rule change from WDFW projected there would be “sufficient returns to allow for a harvest season.”
A Swinomish Tribe fishery occurred in Skagit Bay last month with a reported catch of 400 or so sockeye and a 10-hour Upper Skagit Tribe opener is set for Thursday in the Skagit River.
“They’re really concerned too, but they also want to exercise their treaty rights,” said Eleazer of the Upper Skagits.
He said tribal gillnetters will be radioing in their catch after each drift so as to monitor things in real time and keep to their allotment of 550 sockeye.
Per Urabeck, the sport allocation is 1,100 sockeye in the lake.
While salmon fishing is closed at the lake, kokanee and other game fish are open under regs in the 2021-22 fishing pamphlet.