Recreational anglers push for larger share of Baker Lake sockeye catch

The public will have another chance to provide input on a recreational Baker Lake sockeye salmon fishery at a meeting Saturday.

Fishery managers from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife will summarize the 2014 Baker Lake sockeye fishery, and give a presentation on hatchery operations. They also will share draft management proposals derived from ideas the public provided during a meeting last November, Ron Warren, policy lead for the fish program, said in a news release.

“We received some good ideas from the public for a potential Baker Lake fishery,” Warren said in the release. “We’re refining those ideas in preparation for the salmon season setting process, which starts in March, and want the public’s input on what we’ve developed so far.”

This is the second such session the state will hold, both at the request of recreational angling groups. The first was in November.

Recreational fishermen expressed concern that three treaty tribes caught an estimated 80 percent of the sockeye, said Frank Urabeck, who has been working on the situation with Puget Sound Anglers and Coastal Conservation Association.

“We’re looking for something a little more fair,” he said. “There is a fair chance we might cause some changes. But we realize that any changes the state agrees to has to be run by the three tribes.”

State, tribal and federal fishery managers develop the Northwest's recreational and commercial salmon fisheries each year during a series of meetings in March and April. The process, which includes input from representatives of the recreational and commercial fishing industries, is known as the North of Falcon process.

The public will be encouraged to provide comments at the meeting.

The Baker Lake sockeye fishery first opened in 2010 after a juvenile-collection facility was installed at upper Baker Dam and a hatchery was opened at the lake. In 2014, 13,788 sockeye were trapped below the lower Baker Dam and 6,819 fish were transported to the lake. The remaining sockeye were used for spawning.

Urabeck pointed out that Baker Lake is the only sockeye fishery on the westside of the state. He pointed out the Lake Washington run is unlikely to reach the 350,000-fish mark to allow a fishery in 2015.