June 26, 2008

Sockeye Fishery– Resident Wary of Possible Season

By Scott Sandsberry, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.

Jun. 26--If the sockeye run continues at record levels and Lake Wenatchee ends up having its fifth fishing season on sockeye salmon in 25 years, that will be "five seasons too many, if you ask me."

So says lakeshore resident Byron Dickinson, who could count a traffic jam of nearly 300 boats from his back yard when the first Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery was held in 1984. Dickinson, 73, yearns for bygone days when the lake's best fishing was right off the banks for the plentiful kokanee that used to populate the lake -- and not the sockeye-seeking boaters that, he says, all too often treat the lake as their own personal cesspool.

"The impact has been on the lake. The first year they opened (the sockeye fishery)," says Dickinson, whose ancestors homesteaded his lakefront property more than a century ago, "we had an oil slick from the two-cycle engines that went out 25 to 30 feet from shore.

"My wife and one of our daughters went down and filled a two-gallon pickle jar half-full of cigarette filters -- the only part of the cigarette that floats. And that was just from our beach."

Dickinson says he has watched fishermen cleaning their sockeye and tossing out the guts on his beach, "where my grandkids were swimming." He says another lakeshore resident watched a boat anchor for the night just off his property. "And the next morning the first thing he sees is the (boater) pouring his port-a-potty over the side of the boat."

Dickinson, who serves on both of the Lake Wenatchee fire and water district boards, says that kind of degradation was never an issue decades ago when kokanee were anglers' favorite target at Lake Wenatchee.

"Most of the people back then didn't have money for an outboard," he says. "You bought a fishing pole and some worms and you were good to go."

A month from now, if the sockeye keep on coming, Dickinson knows hundreds of anglers will arrive, some from several states away, in pursuit of one of sport fishing's most cherished catches. Some will be considerate.

Many others will not.

"So when they say they're going to have a sockeye season," Dickinson says, "I kind of flinch."


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