Oh, the not so elusive red salmon. Justin was lusting after this abundant stream fish all summer. I’m not entirely sure why, but even though Homer is the Halibut fishing capital of the world, Justin made it a priority to get out of town to do some salmon fishing in the river.
He tried. And tried. And tried. To make matters worse, the fishermen here are as abundant as the fish when the salmon are running. Anglers stand literally shoulder to shoulder in the rivers and streams, and one person may pull out 50 fish in an hour while the other comes up empty handed. Justin was the latter fisherman, and after multiple fishing trips to the glacial blue Kenai River, we began to wonder why. I also wanted to know why these supposedly “red” salmon were silver, and not in fact red.
To find out, I did what anyone would do. I googled it. This is what I learned:
Sockeye salmon, or “red” salmon live in the ocean. Once a year, around the beginning of July, they start a massive pilgrimage up rivers and streams so they can spawn and make babies. On their way up to the spawning grounds, nothing can stop them. Not bears nor fish hooks nor eagles. Well, actually all of these things can stop salmon, but they can’t stop the movement. The fish are silver when they come up the rivers, and they actually don’t turn red until they begin to spawn. Then they undergo a colorful metamorphosis and emerge as their more beautiful selves. Then they have babies and die.
I also learned that there is a very specific technique for fishing these salmon: just keep fishing. These are fish on a mission, they don’t go for bait or lures because they could care less about eating. They only have one thing on their minds. So, how do you attract a fish that doesn’t want what you are dishing out? You don’t. You get lucky. You keep flicking your line up-stream over and over and over and over, and try to get the hook to drift into a fish’s mouth. That’s how it’s done by the pros.
After we did our learning, Justin tried his luck again, this time in Crescent Creek, near Cooper’s Landing when we went camping. And this time he got one. A bright red beauty. It was a wiggly little fish and ended up flopping right back into the water, but the fact that he actually caught one was apparently more than enough to satisfy Justin, because he hasn’t brought it up again since.