Thursday, July 26, 2007

Salmon and Dipping

The steadfast salmon. What a circle of life they represent. A picture of always doing what should be done. Like our migrating birds, salmon return each year to our joy.

I did some reading online about salmon.

No person knows how these salmon come back to the same place it began. It is speculated that salmon use either a highly developed sense of smell or are endowed with the ability to work out directions from the stars. However they do it, they do make their way back to the exact stream and redd (gravelly nest) that it was born. Once there they will deposit eggs (female) and milt (male) thus completing their own incredible cycle of life. Sockeye and chinook salmon can travel up to 1,000 miles upstream to reach their place of birth. Chums, coho and pinks spawn closer to the sea.

The female salmon will dig a nest up to eighteen inches deep to deposit up to 8,000 eggs, all that digging is done with her tail. Sometimes this can take up to several weeks to accomplish being that they like to lay their eggs in fast running water ensuring that their young will have enough oxygen once buried in the gravel. The male then fertilizes and she will cover up the eggs with gravel. Their worn out bodies remain there, over the redd, until death. Spawned out salmon will either be eaten by scavengers or its rotting flesh will make the earth rich with nutrients.

"We saw dying salmon in the river, Mom, I caught one with my hands and I could feel its bones through its skin." A sad Kim said when she called me yesterday.

"You should all be ashamed of yourselves leaving the remains of this fish on the beach like you do!" Said by an ignorant tourist watching the Alaskan harvesting of returning salmon. She did not know that times and times before these beaches have fed and nourished the earth only to return to the pristine beach it was before the return of that years life-giving-dying salmon.

Either way, our salmon return to die to bring life.

Bears, seagulls, me, flies, eagles, ravens, plant life, so much benefit from this cycle each year. Has only the animal kingdom kept the instructions of the Creator that made it to go and replenish the earth? Obedience that will bring honor and glory to Him in the doing of it.

To go dipping you need a dipnet. There are places to stop and purchase a net in the Kenai area where we fished, but you can also make your own as my husband Doug did. There are size limits such as not larger than five feet wide; the bag has to be at least half the widths size deep or deeper. It should not be shallower. Dipping Regulations. Right now Kenai River dipping is open 24 hours until July 31st, the end of the dipnet season. Looks like the late-running sockeye salmon will be greater than the minimum required two million fish going upstream. That is great!

Once a fish is caught the tail has to be cut and this was hard! Next time I need to remember to bring SHEARS!

Salmon eggs will incubate all winter where they were laid. Through the winter they will grow until they are big enough to be called fry. During these early stages many salmon will die. Hatching out of the egg they are now alevin, tiny creatures with big eyes on an orange sac. The sac contains proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals enough to bring them through the winter. A large vein runs through the center of the sac and picks up oxygen from the fast running water. They will live all winter in the gravel, under the snow and ice protected from predators. By May to June the sac is used up and the alevin climb up out of the gravel, one inch long now they are called fry. Fry are an easy catch for other larger fish. Sockeye salmon will remain in the rivers and lakes for up to a year but the pink and chum swim directly to the sea. (I don't know how they figured this all out.)

Those that successfully reach the end of the rivers and get out into the ocean will be by now four inches long and be called fingerlings. Fingerlings will spend varying amounts of time and up to five years in the ocean eating greedily and growing rapidly to maturity. When mature they will return to repeat this cycle again.

Other interesting stuff I read:
Pacific salmon have disappeared from almost half of their original range along the Northwest Coast of North America within the past one hundred years.

If streams and river water level is too low to navigate the salmon will wait in the ocean for the rain to raise their levels. Once that happens then they can navigate to the very same places they were born.

The majority of salmon species die within a week of spawning.

Steelhead salmon can spawn more than once.

In estuaries, or the tidal mouth of a river (having both fresh and salt waters), young salmon will double or even triple their weight and change from solitary freshwater fish to schooling saltwater fish.

Salmon fry eat insects and their larvae.

...Atlantic salmon don't die after spawning?

It's been 212 days since Millie had her aneurysm. She is still in the hospital. I have been told that she smiled. I have not seen this for myself but hope that I will soon.


Marie VW said...

Looks like a fun time!

Connie Marie said...

You have NEVER gone dipping for salmon yet!

Kerri said...

We don't dip for salmon down here. Why do you have to cut the tail?

212 days. Wow. I really miss her fishing stories and pictures. We normally exchange pictures just about every day in the summer. Grandbabies, fishing, scenery, etc. I wish I could call her and hear her laugh. I really miss her laugh.

Connie Marie said...

They have us cut the tail so that it's marked --- so we don't go and sell them and make mucho bucks, I guess. We are not allowed to give it away either, so no sharing, as our ancestors always taught us that we should do. How interfering of our State government to say not to share our fish, we should be able to share our fish once we get home if we want to!

Nice to hear from you Kerri, HUGs

Kerri said...

That is so beyond wrong! I guess thats one of the perks of living here on Alaska's only Indian Reserve. We have our own waters to fish and what we do with the fish is up to us. We can sell it, smoke or jar it, or give it away. In fact, most people give their first catch away at the start of the season. Keeping it is bad luck!


Connie Marie, I sent an e-mail to your sister, I sure hope she got it. I am praying for her. connie from Texas

Connie Marie said...

Hi Thoughtful Connie!

Yes, she will get it. Thanks for writing to her and I will look for it next time I visit her. :-) (They are hung up on her bulletin board.)
Thanks much for all your prayers too.