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Salmon in the Basin? Myth or Fact

(or have you ever seen a salmon during and after the long trek to spawn?)

By fisherman Lynn Bayona, July 12, 2004

Not long ago, a Klamath Tribal spokesman brought up an interesting situation, which he said, was factual. However the premise has no actual basis in scientific fact, only the words of Tribal lore were sited as evidence,

The tribes insist that there was a time before the dams were in place on the Klamath River, that Salmon would actually come up the river from the ocean to basin waters. Let me say here that a journey that far in the moving waters of the river heading for the sea would be a rather long journey. The tribes are so sure of the this fact, and so desirous of getting salmon back to the basin, that they are willing to launch a large lawsuit against the power company owning the Dams, which they claim are the reason for the absence of Salmon in the Basin.

Let me begin my assessment of this theory with a little fish sense. A salmonís urge to spawn takes the fish back to where it was spawned and raised. Then at a time preset by good olí Mother Nature, they go to the sea for a few years to live. After another certain time they begin the trek back up the river from which they were spawned and hatched, and spawn a new generation of fish.

Next in the assessment of Salmon and Spawning is the burning question: How long has it been since the alleged Salmon runs took place in basin waters? A lot of years I would say, certainly many more years than the average Salmon lives, so where are the fish today that were spawned in basin waters so long ago? Would there be any fish with a genetic drive to come to the waters of the basin to spawn after all of these years, if they were here at all?

Now remember, I am no Ichtoligist, I am just a guy who has seen and caught a few Salmon in Rivers. The tribes in their long ago memories called the Salmons a silvery fish, and here is where I have a real problem with the logic. I have seen Salmon after they have been beaten to death by the merciless torrents of rivers heading to the sea. When the Salmon begins its trek to spawn, it swims day and night to reach wherever it is it was hatched to spawn.

It eats very little, it swims through rocky shallows, it jumps and leaps it way up waterfalls, and simply consumes itself on a trip which is one way, spawn and die,

When the Salmon is close to the spawn, they have lost their silvery color and get very dark. They are used up, their meat is oily and very bad to the taste, and so not much use to those who would eat them. The trick in fishing for salmon in the rivers is to be in a place where you can catch them before they reach this stage.

Let me say this, If a salmon could make the long Journey from the sea to the basin, which for Salmon would be super long journey indeed, by the time the tribes were catching these fish in the basin, they would not be silvery or edible. The effects of the spawning run of that length would be terrible, many of the fish could not even make such a long journey and be alive, let alone retain any desirable characteristics.

So, Fact or Myth, Silvery fish, or dark used up oily fish, which part of this Tribal tale, is true? Did the fish really get here and who ate them? Or is this whole thing a fish story?


Lynn T. Bayona,

Curious Fisherman





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