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Winter Blackmouth Season for Wild & Hatchery Salmon

 
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Hal C
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Joined: 09 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 1:01 pm    Post subject: Winter Blackmouth Season for Wild & Hatchery Salmon Reply with quote

Winter blackmouth season is here, Tony Floor tells us how to enjoy November! Posted here with permission by Tony and NMTA - The Northwest Marine Trade Association, the oldest and largest regional boating trade organization in the nation.


In Search of the Northwest Icon

I was over at Lowe's yesterday morning, grabbing a coffee to go at an independent latte shop, and something caught my eye. Christmas trees, dude, lots of Christmas trees with lights shining brightly. In our state, we can be cited without a litter bag in our car. Yeah, it's a state law. It seems to me, that selling Christmas trees on October 31st is clearly jumping the gun on winter and December 25th.

But at this writing, today is November 1st and it's time to start thinking about winter. For me, it's the kickoff of the winter blackmouth season in many areas around Puget Sound. A lot of anglers are working the rivers for big, bright coho salmon, or, like me, fine tuning my smoked salmon receipe during the cooler days and night, perfect conditions to smoke fish.

I've been thinking a lot about hatchery salmon lately, due largely to our ever-shifting direction and evolution of sport salmon fishing in Washington State. This year, more than ever, fishing rules requiring anglers to release unmarked chinook and coho salmon (bearing an adipose fin versus a clipped adipose fin). Clearly, salmon hatchery produced fish are playing a critical role in today's sport fishing seasons for local anglers. Consider the life of a hatchery salmon. Unlike wild salmon, which spawn on a gravel bed in a stream or river as their final act in their life cycle, hatchery salmon are whacked on the head and the eggs extracted from the girls into a 5-gallon bucket. Milt from the male salmon is added into the bucket and life begins. Somehow, being conceived in a bucket does not sound romantic to this writer. Life begins inside a salmon hatchery in egg incubators, before transferring into concrete raceways where the young juveniles grow for several months, and, in some cases, up to a year, before being released into the river of origin or, into Puget Sound.

Once entering northwest saltwater, these artificially produced salmon join their wild relatives and begin their journey north, excluding some who chose to stay in Puget Sound for the greater part of their life cycle. Sort of like spending your life in a McDonalds parking lot but different, dig me?

While northwest anglers have come to rely on hatchery salmon like bread and butter, hatchery salmon get no respect. Purists, who have become dogmatic in this day and age over wild salmon, constantly pummel our society with the negatives of hatchery salmon. While I understand the importance of a healthy wild salmon population, there are too many cases where populations are extinct or will never recover. That my friend is called reality. Global warming, population growth, urban and industrial land use… how many examples do you want that we are becoming more like L.A. versus a national park? While I believe in salmon conservation, I also believe in a healthy recreational salmon fishery. People are moving to the northwest for jobs and lifestyle, not to become commercial fishermen. And, if you like to catch salmon as much as I do, sharing a chunk here and there of fresh grilled king salmon or a batch out of the smoker, it will likely be a hatchery salmon making that contribution.

I also think about the elements of winter that can contribute or reduce the survival rate of chinook and coho salmon in the natural habitat. Let's see, it seems to me we have enjoyed at least four 100-year floods during the last 10 years. These floods take a big whack on naturally produced salmon. Meanwhile, over at the local salmon hatchery, these fish are in a protected environment, free of floods, drought and a host of predators who like to eat salmon as much as I do. In other words, without salmon hatcheries, I would be writing today about my golf game. I don't play golf as the greater part of my professional and recreational life is spent migrating to the saltwater in search of the northwest icon... salmon. Besides, I have not discovered a recipe I can embrace for smoked golf balls.

So, when someone in your circle of life criticizes hatchery salmon, don't let them get away with it. Tell them about the benefits of hatchery salmon. Granted, I will accept the slam of being bred in a bucket is not cool, but, I will also pop the eye-balls out of witnesses who see a big, chrome 40 pound hatchery produced king salmon hit the deck of my Osprey boat. Welcome aboard. Yeah, baby, hold those smoked golf balls.

Now that you realize, like me, that November is here. Comon' outside. Crabbing just opened in many areas of Puget Sound, coho are in the rivers, blackmouth fishing also opened in many regions, and the next fall razor clam dig is immediately after Thanksgiving Day. What a great way to work off the turkey dinner splurge.

Happy November dude. Don't look for me shopping for Christmas trees. That's me with the fishing rod in one hand, a razor clam tube in the other and ready to celebrate that we live in the best place in the country. See you on the water.
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Captain Walker
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 10:46 am    Post subject: Tony Floor on Salmon and Fishing in the Pacific Northwest Reply with quote

Look for Tony Floor's next article;

Tony Floor reflects on this year's salmon fishing and tells us how to schedule next year!
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