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Lesson Plans

Re:A&E responses 3

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
kate/Ron Hirschi (gresham.10)
Sat, 6 Dec 1997 20:00:45 -0500

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Hi! You asked about the river project.

I am working for the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe on the Dungeness River as
part of a much larger river restoration effort. Like many rivers in
Washington, the Dungeness has gone through incredible changes and the
salmon so valued by Northwest Coast Indians have felt much of the pain of
that change.

Anyone interested can learn a lot in a very readable way from Bruce
Brown's book MOUNTAIN IN THE CLOUDS. Bruce helped turn things around for
fish in that 1982 work of insight/reportage.

Anyway, what I am doing is quite exciting. Believe it or not, not much
is known about the river life of salmon. As most people are tuned into the
spawning adults (that come in from the sea to spawn and die), we have more
or less focused on that part of the cycle. Of course, the eggs are sitting
in river stone for a long time (up to six months). That too is a critical
stage since oxygenated water must reach the eggs in the crevices within the

But after they hatch, the baby salmon become a new story.

That's where I come in on the Dungeness. I go out maybe ten days a month
or so and catch baby salmon (nets, little baited traps, or just watching)
and make lots of notes about what they are doing and where they are.

The little fish are baby chinook (our most in danger with as few as 44
adults returning to the river in recent years), coho, pink, and chum
salmon, as well as steelhead, cutthroat, and bull trout.

My findings are already a bit amazing in that I've found a number of
chinook kids hanging out in the river. According to the previous knowledge,
they "should not be in the river" but rather out to sea. No one has
documented chinook hanging around... They seem to prefer a very specific
few places and I will spend much of the next year figuring out the
specialness of these spots. Then, the ongoing and quite exciting
restoration efforts along the river can help foster the habitats needed by
the chinook.

To make life interesting, the needs of each salmon is kind of similar,
kind of not. Then too, each salmon species has a broad range of interests
in the river. This is reflected in body shape differences and color
differences. So, I've brought in an artist to try and capture these
beautiful differences. Coho salmon are especially colorful as kids -- kind
of like Seattle kids I say. Whatever, they are a beautiful array of blue,
orange, silver, white, and transparent electric fish hues.

Nobody has even illustrated this stuff before, so much of what we do is
a lot like early day naturalist work. Try to find, for example, an
illustrated guide to juvenile salmon. I've been trying to find images of
baby bull trout. No luck. The little salmon stuff is line drawing minimal
science art. No help. I want to dazzle people with the beauty of these
little guys so maybe others will care about their plight. As we speak, the
chinook will probably be placed on the endangered species list. Pinks too.
My latest idea is to create a talk show, SPLISH AND SPLASH THE SALMON BOYS
-- we answer your absurd questions about fish.

Ron Hirschi

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