In seasons past, come this time of year I would pack my gear and head out to the runs, riffles and holding pools of the Adams River to cast my line to the rainbow trout that gather to feed on the eggs of spawning sockeye salmon.
I looked forward to standing on the banks of the river, looking around at all the autumn colours and enjoying that sense of camaraderie that comes with standing and casting a line with fellow anglers.
It’s hard to explain, but I have always felt a connection to both the river and the past when I’m standing there. Whether I caught fish or not, I always felt good being on the banks of the river.
For years now I have released the fish I catch – as long as they have not been harmed in the struggle. To be honest, I don’t really recall the last fish I kept. So why do I fish? Perhaps it is in response to some primordial instinct, some need to pit myself against nature. Perhaps it is just a way for me to get away – for awhile, at least – from the pressures of everyday life.
Having said that, I have stopped fishing the Adams.
About 20 years ago it became obvious the sockeye runs were in trouble. Each four-year cycle, the majors runs were getting smaller and smaller. The Adams River sockeye are now in serious danger of becoming extinct.
The last time I was on the Adams I was with my friend Cory. We fish together often. We had been on the river for the better part of an hour without a bite. There were noticeably few salmon in the river. We both looked at each other as if to ask the question ,”What are we even doing here?” That was a good 10 years ago.
Last week, I was forwarded a letter to the paper from a reader of this column asking if I would, “talk to the fishers of the region, to dissuade them from damaging the salmon redds.” I drove out to the river early the next morning, which happened to be a Saturday. I figured I would take a look and see what was happening first hand.
When I arrived, there were already two anglers on the river. Over the course of the morning four other people showed up to cast their lines. All were standing at least knee deep in the river, and all moved through the water either to play a fish (trout not salmon), or move from holding pool to holding pool. With the exception of one angler, who was casting a switch rod from shore, all appeared to pass through areas where sockeye could possibly have built their redds.
The sockeye are in the state they are presently in large part because of indifference and a lack of understanding.
If you are going to fish the Adams or any other stream, please be aware of what you are doing. If you move through the waters you are likely disturbing subaquatic insect forms living on the bottom of the stream or river. If you are angling for trout during salmon spawning season, you are even further endangering the eggs of a species already at risk.
Think about what you are doing. Your actions have consequences that may not seem obvious.
Cast from shore whenever possible and be aware of how and where you are moving through the water. Please don’t make it any harder for the sockeye.
I would also like to thank the lady who took the time and initiative to write to the paper and bring this to my attention.