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One of the reasons many of us live in the Pacific Northwest is the natural wonders that amaze us all. On this blog Seattle Times writers and photographers will share their explorations of the natural world from snowcaps to whitecaps. Write us at fieldnotes@seattletimes.com with your own sightings, questions and wonders to share.


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June 26, 2012 at 7:00 AM

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Sockeye ballet is best show in town at Ballard Locks

They're back: the silvery, spectacular Lake Washington sockeye, just now putting on their show at the Hiram Chittenden Locks. Captivating, graceful, powerful, their ballet is one of the best shows in town as they swish through the water at the viewing windows at the fish ladder.

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Sockeye shimmer and shine as they glide through the water, making a fine show at the viewing windows at the Ballard locks.

Photographed by Mark Harrison of the Seattle Times

The viewing windows at the fish ladder at the locks are open to the public every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and there is no admission fee. The fish began arriving in June and their run usually peaks around July 4, and continues through August.

The excitement is building for a possible Lake Washington Sockeye fishery -- and if it happens, it would be the first since 2006. There need to be at least 350,000 sockeye returned through the locks for that to happen. So far so good: according to estimates by the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, which monitors the run, some 23,546 sockeye had passed through the locks as of Friday. That compares with just 5,319 sockeye at the same time last year.

If the run keeps building and stays strong, who knows? Maybe the nation's only urban sockeye fishery will return to Seattle. "They are looking so big and so strong,"Jay Wells, program director for the visitor center, said of the sockeye, which are as large as eight pounds.

At the very least, just watching the fish is one of the city's premier tourist attractions, especially for out-of-town guests. Go see the sockeye now while the run is hot.

To learn more about the Seattle's on and again affair with its sockeye, read my magazine story in Pacific Northwest Magazine.


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The last time I was at the locks to see the salmon run (many years ago), there were... MORE

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