SEATTLE -- It's been so long since enough sockeye salmon returned to allow a Lake Washington fishing season that many anglers are reluctant to even talk about it. But some are quietly getting their hopes up and their tackle boxes loaded up as they watch the daily count from the Ballard Locks fish ladder.

The shiny sockeye are coming in at numbers managers haven't seen since 2006, the last year there was a sockeye season on Lake Washington. Nearly 10,000 sockeye climbed the ladder on Wednesday alone. As the count approaces the 100,000 mark since last month, there is cause for cautious optimism.

But there is still a long way to go. Managers have to be convinced that at least 350,000 sockeye will return before they open a season. They admit they don't know where we are in the return at this point. It could get stronger and last for several more weeks --- like it did in 2006. Or it may be peaking now and will begin to taper off.

Either way, the biologists and fishermen know the numbers so far are a very good sign. Even if too few come back this year, the improved numbers for 2012 bode well for a fishing season in the next four years.

More online:

WDFW's Ballard Locks Sockeye Salmon Counts

Sockeye (Red) SalmonOncorhynchus nerka

Recreational Salmon Fishing 101

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