The Romance Of Salmon


It's not that salmon are not being caught, here and there, in reasonable numbers, but that the whole trend is definitely downward, what with drift netting and other netting and, possibly, some mid-Atlantic reason we don't know about. (Peter Mantle reports that in Delphi 572 were caught last year, 139 of them wild salmon, the rest fish from his own hatchery returning to their natal waters.)

Trout has its merits as a game fish, but there is an almost mystical fascination about the salmon, which begins as a speck in the bed of what may be a small brook, and grows for a year or two in that element, then goes, impelled by we know not what, down to the sea, a fish of maybe six or seven inches, all the time in danger of being hooked by an angler or caught by an otter.

And it goes to sea, two years or more, but inevitably, restlessly, gets the urge to return to its origins and ensure the continuation of the species. How does the fish, from perhaps a thousand miles away, steer itself towards its mother stream? How to find the river? By smell? By that and taste, maybe. Anyway, it does. This writer does not fish for salmon, never did, but has watched by torchlight on quiet winter nights in November very big salmon resting under the bankside where the stream or small river was only four or five feet wide.

It may be a long time before the curtain falls on the Atlantic salmon. However, a complete ban for, say, two years, might be a worthwhile experiment, though it could encourage poachers more. Meanwhile, Peter Mantle's scheme has virtue. While 139 of those caught were wild salmon, the rest of the fish came originally from his own hatchery. The latter, he urges, when caught should be kept, but anglers are "strongly encouraged" to release all wild fish except for their very first of the season.

An example of the drop: Ken Whitaker caught six salmon last year, against an average of 11 over a series of previous seasons.

In the meantime there is good reason to be thankful for the workings of a Mind which produced this miraculous, handsome fish.