Salmon swimming this way

Written by Katy Nesbitt May 10, 2012 02:53 pm

I  was criticized the other day for entitling a photo album, “Late Winter 2012.”

But some days are like that in May.

Despite the erratic, hit or miss weather, the out-of-towners are dribbling into the county, perhaps for turkey and bear hunting or kokanee fishing at Wallowa Lake.

Fishermen don’t seem to mind foul weather and on a boat you can pack a lot of gear — or bail if it’s too windy.

As for the rivers, most are closed to fishing until Memorial Day Weekend; except for biologists checking weirs for returning chinook and steelhead.

Our corner of the world named aptly Wallowa, or “fishtrap,” is the imprint of the Nez Perce and so it seems appropriate that the tribe still uses weirs to capture fish — for research, not for food.

From the million dollar weir on the lower Lostine to the picket weirs of the Imnaha, fish swim into traps to be poked and prodded and released back into the river.

I’ve been told recording fish species population is one of the best ways to detect if they are recovering.

Old Chief Joseph was first buried on a hillside above the Nez Perce’s fishing camp site at the confluence of the Wallowa and the Lostine rivers. The returning chinook were an important food source or “medicine,” as the Nez Perce consider food.

During longhouse ceremonies salmon is a part of the sacred meal. Last summer I was treated to wood plank grilled salmon at Tamkaliks as well as other county celebrations. If Joe McCormack is cooking, I’ll be there.

Maybe my early years living near the Oregon coast with a considerable amount of salmon in my diet inclined my partiality to the fish. In landlocked Northeast Oregon we are privy to the same delicacy as they swim upstream right into our laps.

I rarely attend a party or potluck that doesn’t have smoked salmon as one of the treasured food groups, nestled between the deviled eggs and the hummus. I got to Saturday’s smorgasbord so late all that was left was skin…

The chinook season is estimated to be good this year in the county’s rivers, but the season won’t be set until sometime in June. However, if you are plodding about the house in your slippers, anxious for the end of spring run-off and the return to wading for salmon, check www.ptagis.org and geek out on passive integrative transponder information as the fish swim up from the Snake River and closer to home.

 

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