Friday, May 1, 2009

Atlantic Salmon

Starting today, there was to have been a month-long fishing season on the Penobscot River north of Bangor. It's amazing that there are salmon at all in the river, considering what we've done to prevent their runs. Yet every spring some hundreds of fish make it up from the ocean, enough that last year the State opened three miles of the river to catch-and-release fly-fishing. Once 50 fish were caught, the season ended.

But this year the State, under some pressure from the Feds, cancelled the season. The Feds want to make the salmon an endangered species, the State prefers to keep them "threatened." Apparently, the difference in terms is great.

I don't know if Maine's salmon commission wants to please the fishermen, or just keep the Feds out of Maine's game. A certain independence needs to be maintained, I'm sure, and catching a salmon on a fly-rod must be a great thrill, even a privilege. I never fished for salmon, but when I was a teenager, fly-fishing for brown and rainbow trout was a holy activity even if anyone could get a license (I definitely wasn't just anyone back then - I was a "tortured soul"). The Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette River in northern Michigan was my church. And most fishermen will say it's not about the fish, it's about being outside, on the fish's level. One fellow said, "It's not about catching a fish, it's being able to."

But times are dire for the Atlantic salmon. Until someone can prove that catch-and-release does absolutely no harm, and that hundreds of guys in waders flogging the waters and climbing the banks is beneficial, I'm thinking the church-goers should put their religion on hold for a while. Progress in cleaning the waters and removing the dams is slow, but sure. The Feds are right to interfere. Sometimes our human nature doesn't know when to act and when to stop, look and listen, even the most exalting of us.

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