" Squawfish"

April Doornbos By April Doornbos , 1st May 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Sports>Fishing

The people that come annually for this fishing bounty and the distances they travel

Preparing to Launch

People come from as far away as Louisiana, anglers from all walks of life come to challenge the mighty Columbia and catch these determined aquatic pests that cost local hatcheries costly loses to the smolt so tenderly raised safely in cement, netted water tanks protected from birds and other critters that would make them an expensive meal until they are just the right size for release into the cold cruel predatory filled world but fear not because even raised in captivity then are aggressive and can take a beating and do. Only yesterday testing a new location to fish off the banks for lack of a boat and easier access without the risk of injury climbing up and down steep, rocky rugged terrain just to access the river's edge and the swift water below, the perfect place to rush those delicious smolt as they swim by but after watching the smolt, ( juvenile Chinook or Steelhead) aggressive behavior and the way they chase my bate right into the shallow water before finally release my worms. One bold little fish was even dragged out of the water onto the rocks where I was able to grab it after several attempts at the slippery shiny fish flopping around my feet desperate to find the safety of the water but finally I caught the little Chinook or perhaps it was a Steelhead but I knew it was a fish I would never land, but looking at this miniature beauty and after viewing their adult relatives several weeks earlier at the Cascade Locks I could really appreciate what exactly this fish is life cycle is all about.

Location, Location, Location

As in a lot of things its all about location when it comes to catching these troublesome aquatic predators, since they are not strong swimmers but prefer strong currents in rocky locations where the hide avoiding the swift waters but are still able to dart out nailing the unprepared smolt as they swim by, many young smolt often in turmoil after being flushed from powerful turbines that operate these hydroelectric giants as the light up the cities they are meant to produce power for. After catching several different species of fish since arriving from California three weeks early to scout new places to fish for these squawfish now renamed the Northern Pikeminnow since the Native Americans found the term offensive deeming these fish useless or lowly as a squaw was once considered. Observing the fish I have caught from this amazing river I can't help admire the beautiful and health fish it still produces in spite of the constant changes this mighty river is forced to submit to. I have caught several small bass but four grand bass, five of them over four pounds and I was so surprised at the speed this fish are able to attain in pursuit of their prey. The adult Chinook is a absolutely beautiful fish and I was so surprised at the size these fish attain in only four years until the are mature and ready to return, spawn and die completing their cycle of life, the steelhead on the other hand is unlike the salmon because it does not always die after spawning as the salmon does but can return to the sea and continue its life, Those steelhead are a beautiful fish and delicious too, if they live long enough they turn a brownish color with spots, they are a member of the trout family and you can view them at the Bonneville Damn and hatchery,

Hatchery Smolt

Hatchery raised smolt are particularly vulnerable because of the way they are raised and worse fed, they are thrown pellets that float briefly before the small fish devour there food but that teaches those little fish to seek food on the surface and if you saw the attackers (pikeminnows) stalk and ambush its prey especially hatchery smolt that are now cast into the turbulent waters of the Columbia with no protection and worst of all now after being raised in captivity in a very protected controlled environment, even the cement tanks they are raised in a covered with nets to protect them from the birds but in the wild they would know that naturally but stupid man causes the problem feeding them floating food making them vulnerable to the relentless seagulls , why doesn't it sink teaching hatchery spawn to look for food on the bottom as wild smolt do. After they are flushed into the river and abandoned and expected to survive, all have lost most of there natural instincts to survive and more importantly where to find food, the hatchery blindly attack anything they think they can eat not even knowing what wild food really is and they get so hungry these tiny fish chase your worms right into the shallow waters and even onto the rocks before they finally let go. Last night a young boy caught a small hatchey fish snagged on a treble hook, they have three hooks combined into one, somehow we removed the hook and I taught these future young fishermen the importance of returned a stunned fish back to the water, you just can't throw some of them back they will just die and or get eaten, you must hold the fish and float in threw the water flushing water threw its mouth and over its gills to relieve them, it took awhile and slowly its small gills began to move and finally I released it and hoped for the best, it turned upside down and began to sink but suddenly it righted itself and swam off, the children were excited it lived and so was I, I hope that lesson will stay with these future keepers of our planet and their children.

Cheaters

Yes there are all ways greedy people that try and cheat this reward program as in all things competitive, for instance people start catching the pikeminnows before the official start of the program which is on midnight April 30, May1 and some freeze them but when you thaw them out their eyes turn white, others go to tributaries of the Columbia and catch them there and turn them in, the rules state the program only includes pikeminnows caught in the Columbia. One fellow who got caught last year on the boat basin in The Dalles stockpiling minnows in a netted enclosure and turning them in, others combine forces turning fish is under one name so they can reach 400 fish and that escalates the bounty to 8 $ per fish, If you are caught breaking the rules you will be banned from the Sport's Fishing Program and if the violations are severe enough jail time and hefty fines are incurred. I am sure I will hear other tales of rule violators as I become more familiar with the program, time will tell. Also I have learned that the number one pikeminnow fisherman chums the water with salmon blood and guts drawing the vivacious pikeminnows in with the scent of salmon blood just like they do in the ocean to draw sharks in and this practice is illegal and I have asked several people who work for fish and game about that and get no answers, that is because they know its illegal and last year a fellow fisherman from Vermont thought about doing just that but hesitated because he knew it was illegal and fines are incurred if caught, there are no limits to the amount of pikeminnows these anglers are allowed to catch like the strict regulations regarding many other prise fish in this river for example you are allowed two salmon and one sturgeon.

Oregon's Fish and Game

A very busy combination of rules and regulations to adhere to that is forever changing in accordance to the species of fish or wild game that is in season at any given time, only the Native Americans have treaty laws in place protecting their rights to fish and hunt in the traditional ways of their particular tribes. The migration of many of these species of fish are so predictable you can set a clock by them like the Steelhead start their run in July and shortly afterward are the Chinook's fall run, I removed the hook from one starving hatchery fish that has no idea how and where to find wild food, those hatcheries should feed those smolt from side vents so they learn to search for food on the bottom of the river not the top. In their office to my dismay was trophies of many beautiful animals, elk, deer , big horn sheep, owls, hawks and many more, I thought they were suppose to save the animals instead of mounting them all over the walls but I recently found out most of the large mount animals were poached and confiscated also the property the Screen Shop and Fish and Game office is located on is lost habitat to nesting birds such as Canadian geese and Plovers also referred to as Kill Deer that nest on the ground and risk being mutilated by gardeners and their lawn mowers, I have seen them flying around myself, when their small chick hatch if they haven't been trampled by humans, dogs or cars these small birds run for their lives literally. Once I found the corpse of such a chick I held in my hand only a week before in New Jersey my home state, I love the Plover's, the parents pretend they are injured if a predator gets to close to their nest or chicks and that I witnessed with my own eyes.

The Dalles Screen Shop

This is located next to Oregon's Fish and Game office, the purpose of these screens is to filter the fish into safe areas and not diverted away from their natural spawning grounds. these screens must be constantly cleaned and debris removed and the river water kept flowing, this activity has been going go for a long time , ever since the damns were built. The screens are shaped like the old NASA space capsules that the astronauts returned to Earth in before the space shuttle but they are made of stainless steel and allow the water to pass thru them into the farmers fields for irrigation but to prevent and protect the juvenile fish for ending up in the fields and to continue on the migration to the sea where them will complete their life's cycle, There are other conservation efforts in effect too like streams that naturally meander threw the countryside were straighten but now they are reverting them back to a more normal habitat and even placing old tree stumps in them to provide nature hiding places for the young fish to hide and find food , all this is a never ending attempt the wrongs into rights to save our native fish.

Tags

Conservation Of Our Natural Resources, Conservation Of Water, Fishing, Fishing Rights, Pikeminnows

Meet the author

author avatar April Doornbos
In my younger days I exercised famous racehorses until I injured my spine since then I have traveled to Europe many times and all over the Unite States.

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