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Swimming Upstream

Until Saturday, the only fish our kids had tangible knowledge of was in a can.  In our pantry.  And they preferred it with pickles and mayonnaise.

Which was why, when my husband suggested a trip to the fish hatchery, our kids’ eyes expanded to hubcaps.  We even called a couple of cousins to join us.  This was gonna be great–whatever a fish hatchery was.

Kneeling is Mr. Lunden who’s been working for the Fisheries and Wildlife Department most of his life.  Which means he’s probably too tired to talk about fish or blab his way through one more tour.

Only he wasn’t.

He bent himself in half and talked to our family like friends.

He went and grabbed the fish first.

These are salmon.  King. Coho. And Jack.

And they’re dead.

And frozen.

And leaving an impression.

What the hatchery workers do is clip the fin of each fish raised in the hatchery–the fin on its back, nearest the tail, the fin the fish apparently don’t need.

And this is how they track them.  When the salmon swim ‘home’ to spawn in late August or September, the hatchery workers look at each fish for that specific fin.  No fin–hatchery fish.  Fin–tossed back upstream.

There were two chest-deep holding ponds with creek-fed water in ’em.  Like deep mud puddles and just as tempting to our son. Only between the two, 800,000 weensy fish were squirming around.

Which seemed to mean that we ought to be able to see one.  Or a thousand.  Or pet them.

What we saw mostly were ripples where the fish skittered to the surface to grab a few crumbs we’d thrown in.

They might have been full.

Inside one of the hatchery buildings were narrow troughs with tiny polywog-like fish zipping one way and then back.

Here they are crammed in a cup for us to see that they’re almost ready for fish food.  Right now their bellies are still sagging with what’s left of their red egg sac, the thing that feeds them until they’ve eaten it all.

When the egg sac is gone, they join the mayhem in the pond.  Yippee.

In the same building, these shelf-like crates hold the eggs.

Zillions of eggs.  None of which are in a hurry to hatch, as the water they’re sitting in is 40 degrees.

Can’t say that I’m productive in forty degrees either.

Here are some of the salmon eggs–each like a round, red huckleberry…

With a visible eyeball and spine…

Each with the perfect potential…

To grow and leave, return and die.


2 Responses to “Swimming Upstream”

  1. Kristine Thompson says:

    I finally caught my first salmon this year! The fish checker at the dock also scans all the fish to see if they have been tagged with a tiny microchip. My fish had a tag, so they took its head! Later they sent me the information of where my fish had been hatched and realeased. It was very scientific and interesting, but kind of nightmarish! :-0

  2. jeanne says:

    Eww…who knew that’s how it’s done!! How funny. Sort of. 🙂

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