The 2015 salmon run has afforded many of us time to reflect upon “the good ol’ days”. This year’s low fish count has meant more sitting in the boat just watching clients fish their hearts out with minimal hook-ups or fish landed. During this time, I’ve thought many times of the days of running up and down the river with a net, while the guys in my boat laugh and high-five after landing fish after fish all day long. So many fond memories on the riverbanks I pass by in my boat each day. I know I’m not the only person who has these memories; we all do!
I understand the scientific reasons why the salmon’s food source is in jeopardy. However, I cannot help but ponder if there wasn’t something that, I myself, couldn’t have done better in years past to help avoid what we are currently facing. Maybe I shouldn’t have walked through a spawning red to land a fish for a client….or maybe I landed a foul-hooked fish just to get a lucky fly back. Maybe I’ve taken for granted these once numerous, amazing fish.
For years now, I’ve been trying to practice a better way. I no longer chase a foul-hooked fish; that fish needs all the energy it can save to spawn. A lost fly is more than acceptable when it comes to the life of one salmon; especially considering that some of these fish get landed a dozen times in the popular areas along the river. These fish deserve better than being drug in backwards just for a hero shot. The salmon eggs nestled in the shallow gravels also deserve better. It is so common for fishermen to choose the shallowest part of the river to cross; this is where the eggs are! At this point, we need every egg we can get; the Pere Marquette is not a stocked river!
Maybe better efforts are all for nothing in the current state of Lake Michigan; the survival of our migratory fish now lies in the hands of Biologists. But, being more diligent here is the least we can do for the river that we all love. It is my hope that my reflections will inspire others to change the way they view these fish and rally to support the cause for the greatest river in the Midwest!