Sunday, September 22, 2013

Great Lakes Salmon.

Salmon are among the largest predatory game fish in the Great Lakes. There are bigger fish and more voracious feeders, (like the muskelunge maybe) but the salmon is popular with anglers for the challenge as well as the quality of the meat. Anglers like them because they put up a fight, so there is that sporting aspect to it.
My old lady, (my mother) just loves salmon. I guess it’s all right, I’ve certainly eaten it a time or two. A friend of mine used to do them on the barbecue, wrapped in foil, buttered up with slices of lemon and all that sort of thing. It tasted all right, as far as I can recall.
Salmon roe is gathered from dead and dying fish in spawning streams and used for bait. Those fish are often harvested with a three-pronged spear and the occasional fish is taken by hand. Traditionally, natives would use a spear, a bow, or nets and weirs.
I’ve seen salmon up close a number of times. Standing on the riverbank of Big Creek near Delhi, Ontario, the crystal clear water allowed a good view, and they look like massive silvery fish at that time of the year. They spawn in autumn, and that’s always a good time to go walking in the woods anyway.
Salmon eggs must remain at a constant (cold) water temperature with good aeration. What this implies is a gravel bed with a swift current, otherwise mud or silt asphyxiates the eggs and they simply don’t develop or hatch. The same fish will return to the home creek, just like B.C. salmon, which I have also eaten when an avid fisherman friend brought back two suitcases full of dead fish (by air) all packed in dry ice.
Salmon spawn in all the major creeks and rivers draining into Lake Ontario, and due to large human populations, places like the mouth of Bronte Creek are regulated in season. Way out in the boonies, the odds of seeing a Conservation Officer are fairly small, but right in town they do keep on eye on it.
Sportsmen and anglers provide a significant benefit to the provincial GDP and the environment benefits from diversity and a proper top-to-bottom food web. This requires some management and some cooperation from the public. Poaching and wildlife abuse of any kind should always be discouraged.
This one time a friend and I were paddling on Bronte Creek in one-man fibreglas kayaks. We were headed downstream, and I was twenty or thirty metres ahead of my buddy. On the way up, we’d noticed a school of big, impressive fish. They look black on top, but silver on the sides and the humped body shape is very distinctive. I saw the school going downstream away from me, as I was sort of on the right side of the creek. I knew the fish would eventually get to some psychological point, when they would want to switch back, and try to get behind me again. That’s exactly what they did when we went upstream.
Digging in the paddle, I accelerated and stroked strongly for five or six strokes, and then just stopped and coasted along. I wanted to get some separation from Steve. My buddy was talking away, but never mind him…soon enough, I saw the school of at least a dozen, maybe fourteen two to three-foot salmon turn around and start going back up the creek along the bank to my left.
You won’t believe this, but they can look back at you and sort of grin sardonically. They really do. Ah, but they forgot about my buddy. Again digging in the paddle, I swept around in a tight left turn and started really stroking, going back up against the current, tending always a bit to the right…the school of fish opened out in a fan shape and streaked off into the dim underwater haze…tails going like mad, back and forth…
They must have shit bricks when they saw Steve, because all of a sudden the air was full of panicking twenty-pound fish, turning left and right, going every which way but loose, and one or two of them damned well jumped the bow of his boat.
Ah. Much to his surprise. Luckily for him, (and me too, I suspect,) none of them landed on the deck or hit him in the chest or the face or whatever, but honestly, ladies and gentlemen…the look on his face was worth seeing.
“You son of a bitch!” That’s what he said, I kid you not.
What the fish thought of all of this can only be imagined. Last I saw od them, they were headed up the river at their best speed of about thirty knots!

Credit River (Mississauga) salmon spawning, fish up to three feet long. (website.)
Salmon Fishing Now (website.)
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. (website.)

No comments:

Post a Comment