Halloween is a great exciting adventure for
small children - a chance to gather lots of
goodies which may be 'off limits' during the
rest of the year. (Remember this a country
of dedicated dieters) the older kids buy into
it because it's free candy, and the parents,
depending on the ages of the kids are dragged
along as chaperons or pack mules.
Our neighborhood has organized an after-school
party for the little kids at our local school,
so the numbers of kids we get Halloween night
isn't very large. But one never quite knows
for sure, so Castwell bought a bag full of the
good stuff. Kids who show up will have a nice
treat and we'll consume the leftovers.
Peanut-butter cups this year.
One year we put a bowl of candy out on the front
porch, unattended, and went fishing. The bowl
was not quite empty when we returned, some
thoughtful kids had left a couple for the next
'trick or treater.' I realize there are places
you couldn't do that, but this is a pretty laid-back
little community and not the big city at all.
We went fishing? Halloween marks the beginning
of the Chum Salmon season for us. There are only
a handful of places we fish them, and since the
life cycle of the Chum can vary depending on
conditions at sea, how many where eaten by their
predators before they returned to spawn, and if
we've had sufficient rain to put enough water in
the creeks for them to get upstream to spawn, a
place which was really hot last year may not be
this year. We almost lost a complete age class
of salmon a couple of years ago when a pod of Orca
whales followed the salmon run into our estuary
and ate everything they could.
Salmon really are a marvel of nature. If you
consider the size of the oceans in which they
travel for most of their lives, to zone in on
the scent of their natal stream and return to
it in three or four years is truly incredible.
Our local Chum travel thousands of miles before
coming 'home.' Some salmon travel even farther
swimming upstream in freshwater for hundreds of
miles. All of this accomplished in a brain
smaller than your thumb.
When you see photos of the huge salmon runs in
the rivers and streams of Alaska, you might give
some thought to the fact that the number of salmon
we now have is a very tiny fraction of the total
number of salmon which were in the oceans and
rivers when fishermen first discovered them.
All the Pacific salmon originated in the Sea of
Japan, eons ago. Not to be trite, but there were
billions and billions of salmon! We here in the
Great Northwest have all except one of the species,
the Cherry Salmon never having migrated to the
east as the others did. It is still found on
the coast of Russia and is heavily protected
(due to overfishing by Japanese factory boats.)
There is a neat story about how serious the
Russians are in protecting what remains of
those salmon. As it was told to me, there
were three Japanese factory ships illegally
fishing for the Cherry Salmon. The Russian
government sent out a message to stop and
leave the area. They didn't stop or leave.
The next message was stop and leave or the
Russian boats would sink them. They still
ignored the warning. The Russians boarded
one of the boats, forced the crew to leave
and sank the boat. The other two boats got
the message and left. Sometimes talking
doesn't work. (State Department, you catch that?)
Shortly after the turn of the century (1900)
a method of canning was invented in England.
It didn't take long for that to make it to
the US east coast, and then the west coast.
There were fish canneries everywhere out here.
Our little town of Poulsbo, WA, had several.
A good protected harbor for the fishing fleet
and salmon everywhere! After World War II we
saved most of Europe from starvation - shipping
millions of cans of SALMON. Highly nutritious
and cheap compared to beef or other canned products,
the US government still buys canned salmon for
use in prisons and public school lunch programs.
The program should have been discontinued long
ago, but it's one of those entitlement things
which will probably still exist after the last
salmon is gone.
Those canneries consumed at least half of the
existing salmon in the Pacific Ocean by the
end of the reconstruction of Europe.
Add to that destruction of watersheds, wall to
wall concrete and parking lots, unrestricted
growth and all the ills of modern society and
it is flat amazing we have any salmon left at
all. Some of the west coast states have enacted
a net ban preventing near-shore gill netting of
returning salmon, unfortunately Washington State
is not one of them. It's more than sad, the
mis-management of the major salmon here is a
crime, just not legally called one.
The only salmon the State hasn't 'managed to
death so far' is the Chum. It is the one we
have the most of. Duh.
My husband and I do fish for them, and while we
may not leave a bowl of unattended candy on the
front porch this Sunday night, we no doubt will
check the local estuaries on Friday or Saturday
to see what is happening. We do not keep any
of the Chum salmon. We have kept one or two
over the years, one time to smoke some, and
other time one of us caught a very bright silver
male and I poached it for a meal with friends.
It was lovely.
Mostly however, the fall Chum run here has become
a marker of the season for us. All of our Pacific
Salmon die after spawning, so the whole event
indeed is marked as the renewal of the season,
the fish themselves and our stream ecology.
What a lovely way to celebrate! ~ DLB
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