Columbia River steelhead fishery clarification
The hatchery steelhead season on the Columbia River expands Saturday from the Megler Astoria Bridge in southwest Washington upstream to Priest Rapids Dam on the borders of Grant and Yakima counties. For more information on where and when you can fish for steelhead on the Columbia River and elsewhere this summer, view the state Department of Fish and Wildlife's Sportfishing Regulation Pamphlet at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.
Is it any coincidence that the great match of wits and will between two adversaries is set to fall on Father’s Day weekend?
Relax for now. The adversaries are not father and son, that is, until a day spent in a fishing boat or on a small patch of river bank leads to shortened patience with one another.
Salmon and steelhead fishing opens Saturday on the Columbia River. And the chance to land an elusive steelhead will lure many from their Saturday slumber.
The wits of the trout helped them survive from fry to full-grown fish out among the big fish in the ocean. The will of the steelhead brought them back to their spawning grounds in the Columbia River.
Match those virtues with those of a fisherman’s. No slacker of a fisherman happens upon this highly specialized prey without the right preparation and determination. After 10 hours of fishing, if he’s caught a steelhead or two, it has been a successful day.
Upon this opening weekend of steelhead fishing, one must consider what one is up against when pursuing the elite survivor. And they are a survivor in every sense of the word.
A fisherman naïve to the effort it takes to catch a steelhead might dismiss the challenge suggesting that the fish only have a brain the size of a corn kernel, after all. Meanwhile, he laughs and compares our brains to larger vegetables.
The fish start off like any other, in a pile of eggs hoping to one day morph into a real fish. By the time the egg turns into a little swimmer, the fish has already cleared the hurdle of getting fertilized by papa fish’s little swimmers. Then, the journey of real hardships begins.
From their nest of eggs, the tiny fish leave the less fortunate sibling eggs who remain buried forever in the gravel bed. Out in the open river, the fish look for food while trying not to become food themselves to countless predators. The few survivors that made it through the first weeks have conquered starvation, predators and being swept away in search of shelter.
After a year, the fish can look at each other knowing only a fraction of those will make it to two years. Typically, at age two, they begin the journey to the ocean, which will claim even more lives by way of more predators, diseases, physical obstacles, injuries and too harsh of environments.
Out in the ocean, the threats are the same, but to a higher degree. And it is in this fashion, over thousands of years, the species has spawned generation after generation of the best survivors. Every egg that is dropped into the gravel bed is from the adult steelhead that eventually made the return trip through the brutal conditions. Only this time, it was a literal uphill and against-the-current battle.
The successful fish are the Navy SEALs of the animal kingdom – or at least of the Columbia River. They’re elite survivors who have beaten bleak odds, mastered harsh environments and accomplished their mission of returning home to birth a new generation.
The fathers of these fish only get one chance to pass on their talents, but this weekend is the first of many chances to learn the skill of fishing them.
Should you find yourself in the presence of the bright pink meat, steaming on the grill, grab a lemon wedge in confidence while knowing that you are in the company of an accomplished angler.