Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soap Box next to the Washing Machine.

Fishing priorities.

The Pacific Ocean off of the coast of Oregon is a mighty thing. Full of tides, waves, water, and fish. You know, ocean stuff.

Anyway, Triton/Neptune/Pacifica/Mami Wata has been building up on the anger recently. Or, going back to how the Pacific Ocean behaves off of the Oregon coast. Cold water. Big waves. Lots of wind. Not inviting in the least for little old me on my 11 foot long plastic boat. Even wearing a drysuit. Nope, things are a little rough out there. It doesn’t help that the long range forecasts will regularly throw a patch of hope in the mix – a day with small swells, long periods and low winds. And then, three days before, change its mind and bring out the 12 foot swells with 4 foot wind waves at 10 seconds apart with 20-30 mile an hour winds. With means that the shorebreak is basically just a continuous washing machine. And not at all conducive to fishing from a very, very small boat.

The good part of all of this is that, as there is a change in attitude/weather on the ocean, the salmon runs in the bays and tidewater areas are picking up. Autumn is when the seas get rough again, and the Fall runs of Chinook and Coho (as well as some Pink and Chum) Salmon start running up the bays and then rivers of Oregon.

Salmon are sort of the iconic fish here in the Pacific Northwest. When Lewis and Clark came out here, the tribes that they encountered weren’t bottom jigging for cabezon and rockfish. No, they were netting Salmon as they made their spawning migrations upriver. There are tales of schools of migrating salmon so thick that one could cross a river without getting their feet wet. Of fish larger than 100 lbs.

Like most everything else, those are tales of yesteryear. Believe it or not, Johnson Creek in SE Portland used to be home to an annual run of Steelhead and other salmonids. Humans change the landscape, and what was once a rushing, cold stream became a lazy, warm, slightly septic body of water. Same goes for the Tualatin river, Gale’s Creek, Dairy Creek, etc., etc. The Mighty Columbia was a completely different river before the dams went in.

Most of what is gone is gone for good. But we can turn back the clock sometimes. The Sandy river is home to a pretty good run of native Chinook, as well as hatchery Coho and Steelhead. The Marmot Dam was breached a couple of years ago, and streams and creeks that no longer had spawning runs were open to them again. And just days after the Dam removal, salmon were spotted in the waters above where it once stood. Recovery can happen. We can’t bring back the past, but we can improve our future.

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