Seeing Salmon

The Salmon are here! The Salmon are here! Ever since I arrived in Stanley this summer, I have heard countless people tell me that seeing the salmon swimming throughout the creek is one of the best sights of the summer. I am so glad that the Kokanee started to swim up Fishhook Creek before I left. I found myself standing at the bridge along Fishhook Creek Nature Trail for over 10 minutes, just watching the Salmon swim.

One of the first things that amazes me is that after living a great life in Redfish Lake, bright red adult Kokanees swim against the current and up the stream. I know that I would be tired after swimming only 5 feet upstream. Not only do they keep swimming, but they also have to work to jump or swim over the beaver dam in the creek. That’s a lot of work. All just to go lay eggs and then die.

The sacrifices that adult salmon make for their eggs is one of a kind. The female will destroy her own flesh to dig a redd in the rocks to safely lay her eggs in and then cover them back up. When an adult female’s tail is white, that is a sign that she recently dug of rocks on the stream bed to build a redd for the eggs. And then after laying the eggs, both parents will die, and the nutrients from their bodies will help plant life grow in the stream so that their young have food the next year after they hatch. To swim upstream, use your own body to dig up the stream bed and then die is the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that their species survives.

It is also exciting to see the adult salmon getting ready to spawn because it shows that the ecosystem is only going to get healthier. Not only do the young Salmon Fry benefit from the death of their parents, so does the rest of the stream. Everything else in the area benefits from the salmon dying and decomposing and releasing nutrients into the area. The whole area will benefit from the Salmon. The bears also help to ensure that the sacrifice of the salmon does not go to waste. When they eat Salmon, they help spread its nutrients by taking it off into the woods to eat it, and then spread more nutrients when they have to excrete their waste.

Everyone talks about conserving and preserving our land for future generations to enjoy. The Salmon are already doing it. Adult salmon make an incredible journey to return to their birth spot and lay their eggs and die to ensure that their young have the best chance at a good life and can make it to the ocean. I’m not saying we have to die to ensure that future generations get to enjoy the wilderness, but maybe we can learn from the Salmon about how to sacrifice a little bit of ourselves to ensure that future generations can enjoy the Sawtooth Mountains as well. It could be as simple as teaching young kids early on about the different wildlife in the area, or picking up litter we see along the trails. Salmon sacrifice their lives for their young and the environment, all we have to do is give a little of our time to create a healthier environment for future generations.