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Originally published Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 8:05 PM

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Cedar River Hatchery producing big numbers of sockeye salmon eggs

A little over a year ago, the permanent Cedar River Hatchery began producing sockeye salmon in hopes of rejuvenating a run that has seen...

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A little over a year ago, the permanent Cedar River Hatchery began producing sockeye salmon in hopes of rejuvenating a run that has seen some hard times.

Good fortune came this past summer as an unexpected large return of 145,815 sockeye (45,871 was the preseason forecast) made the long journey back from the ocean to one of West Side's largest urban watersheds.

"The sockeye run has been depressed the past few years, and we're in a rebuilding mode now," said Paul Faulds, the Seattle Public Utilities Landsburg Mitigation Manager.

"We're pleased with the functionality of the new hatchery, and it allows us to get bigger daily egg takes than we could've done at the old facility," Faulds said. "It's definitely proving to meet all our adaptive management goals."

The new permanent hatchery replaced a temporary facility that had been in operation since 1991.

There are 15.9 million eggs are in the hatchery's incubators with another 3.6 million on hand, and Faulds says they're on track to hit 20 million. The hatchery has the capacity to produce up to 34 million eggs.

The largest daily egg take this season was 1.58 million on Oct. 19, twice as large as day in the old facility.

"More fish are still rolling in, and we're catching about 100 females a day at the fish weir," Faulds said. "It is exciting and exhilarating to think about where we've come from just a year ago when we produced a total of 9.6 million eggs (on a sockeye return of 43,724)."

The first eggs were produced Sept. 18 and will hatch in late November, and will be released in January. Eggs will continue to hatch through March or April, and releases will occur through May.

"If we reach that 20 million fry survival with this new hatchery and see good wild fish production, then four years from now the potential of having a fishery is increased," Faulds said.

This season, 30 percent will go into the Landsburg area near the hatchery, 30 percent mid-river and 40 percent at the river mouth.

"It is a difficult decision we make on where the fry are released," Faulds said. "Fish released higher up in the river are subject to additional pressures of predation and other elements such as flooding mortality."

Those in the sport fishing industry are hopeful that a viable fishery will happen in the near future.

"It is possible from the 2012 sockeye return that the new hatchery will contribute enough sockeye fry along with natural production in the Cedar (and other tributaries like Bear Creek) to give us a chance for a Lake Washington sockeye fishery in 2016," said Frank Urabeck, a sport fishing representative on the Cedar River Adaptive Management Work Group.

"Based on Lake Washington sockeye fry entry data going back to 1994, there is a 50 percent chance of a fishery if we can have at least 35 million total fry (wild and hatchery origin) leaving the Cedar River in 2013," Urabeck said.

In order For a fishery to be considered, state Fish and Wildlife, tribal and other fish managers say at least 350,000 sockeye must enter the lake, but many say that figure is inflated.

"There has been some discussion between state and tribes about revisiting that goal," said Urabeck who feels it should land between 300,000 and 250,000.

The last time a sport and tribal fishery happened in Lake Washington was 2006 when 470,000 sockeye returned. That allowed an 18-day sport fishery, and was a great boost in the economy for all related industries and businesses.

Others sport fisheries occurred in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004.

For more information, visit the Seattle Public Utilities website at www.seattle.gov/util/environmentconservation/ourwatersheds/habitat_conservation_plan/fishandlandsburg/hatchery/.

Notes

• LFS Marine and Outdoor is hosting a salmon fishing seminar 9 a.m. Nov. 10 at the Zuanich Point Boathouse, 2600 North Harbor Loop Drive in Bellingham. Derek Floyd the winner last year of the Roche Harbor Salmon Derby; Ken Pinnell with Q Cove Fishing Tackle Company; and store manager Zack Miller are the guest speakers. Details: 800-426-8860.

• The Resurrection Winter Blackmouth Derby is Dec. 7-8 at the Port of Friday Harbor Marina on San Juan Island. The derby is the final event in the Northwest Salmon Derby Series. Cost is $400 with a limit of four anglers per boat and a limit of 100 teams. Details: www.resurrectionderby.com.

• The Washington Fly Fishing Club is offering three classes to help anglers on fly tying and casting. There is an eight-week Beginning Fly-Tying Class that will be held every Thursday from Jan. 3 through Feb. 21. Classes are held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Mercer Island Covenant Church, 3200 78th S.E. on Mercer Island. Cost is $50. Details: 253-350-5085.

The six-week Beginning Fly-Casting Class will be held every Thursday from April 4 through May 9. Classes are held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Green Lake Casting Pier in North Seattle. Cost is $50, and limited to 36 fly anglers. Details: 206-356-4180. The Advanced Fly-Casting Class is four weekly sessions starting April 3 through April 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Green Lake Casting Pier in North Seattle. Cost is $50, and limited to 10 fly anglers. Details: 206-356-4180.

• The Coastal Conservation Association Sea-Tac Chapter meeting is 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at IBEW Hall, 19802 62nd Ave. South in Kent. Guest speaker is fly angler Barrett Mattison author of Fly Fishing in Patagonia: A Trout Bum's Guide to Argentina. Details: efedder@hotmail.com.

• The Newport High School Ski and Snowboard Swap is 1-9 p.m. Nov. 9, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at 4333 Factoria Blvd. S.E. in Bellevue. Come see more than 10,000-square-feet of snow sports gear at great prices. Details: http://newportskiswap.com or 425-206-1786.

• The Washington Sea Grant is offering a First Aid At Sea Class 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Fishermen's Terminal's Bordby Building in Seattle. The class is a Coast Guard-approved course for boaters, and includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation, patient assessment, hypothermia, cold water near-drowning, shock, trauma, burns, fractures, choking, immobilization techniques, first-aid kits and more. Cost is $80. Details: 206-543-1225.

• The Westport Boat Basin Salmon Derby is open through Oct. 31. Anglers fish the inner-marina piers targeting returning net-pen hatchery fish. Details: www.experiencewestport.com.

• The Bellevue-Issaquah Chapter of Trout Unlimited's Kokanee Work Group needs volunteers to report spawning kokanee salmon this fall in creeks feeding into Lake Sammamish. Volunteers will survey creek sections once a week during the spawning season from October through January. Details: www.tu-bi.org.

• The Northshore Trout Unlimited meeting is the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center, 18560 1st Ave. NE in Shoreline. Details: http://northshoretu.blogspot.com.

• The Issaquah Alps Trails Club holds weekly hikes and meets in downtown Issaquah. Details: www.issaquahalps.org.

• The Washington Trails Association offers statewide trip reports and trail conditions. Details: www.wta.org.

• The Seattle Audubon Society offers field trips and classes every month. Details: 206-523-4483 or www.seattleaudubon.org.

• The Western Bass Club meets every third Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Kennydale Hall in Renton. Details: www.westernbassclub.comor www.nickbarrfishing.com.

• The new nonprofit Cascade Musky Association is looking for members. Cost is $25 or $35 for a couple/family membership. Details: www.cascademuskyassociation.com or www.wafish.com.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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