Many of us go fishing to get away and enjoy nature’s beauty. On this day, I could not see past the rubbish.
Californian's, we have been given a great gift by the Department of Fish and Game. The shiny chrome present is a month long salmon season on the Feather River. How do we, the fisherman, thank the agency that has given us a salmon season that has been closed for the last three seasons? We give thanks by leaving styrofoam worm containers, sardine packaging, Kwikfish wrappers, pizza boxes, cigarette packs, as well as butts, soda bottles, beer bottles and bundles of fishing line.
Shanghai Bend does get a lot of fishing pressure, as it is one of the most popular fishing spots on the area.
When my eight year old son and I arrived at the parking lot for his first salmon season we saw we were not going to have the river to ourselves as there were six cars in the lot at the end of the dirt road. The potholes made the driving slow going, but it did give me the opportunity to look around a bit. I saw newspapers, beer bottles, batteries and burned wood from what looked to be a camping spot even though there is no camping allowed, as well as tires and a baby stroller.
As I made a cast into the river with my hopper dropper combo, the silver bead-head landed softly into the pool and as I retrieved it, my line stopped, so I set the hook thinking about the salmon that was about to give me the fight of my life. The fish made a quick and deliberate run downstream and it pulled very hard as it entered the faster water. The fish pulled me downstream 80 yards or so. It looked as if it was going to take to the air so I dropped my rod tip into the water with hopes of keeping the fish below the surface. The fish kept rising, I saw a white flash just before it took to the air. Once the fish hit the air it seemed to die and just lay there. I reeled it closer and noticed that it was not a fish, it was a plastic grocery bag.
My son did not catch his first salmon but he did catch his first striper at Shanghai Bend. Earlier in the day as I was fishing under the Third Street bridge in Marysville, an officer drifted past me, and I asked if there had been any salmon caught. She said she had seen six. I did catch a large-mouth bass and saw a nice chromer as it swam up river to it's spawning grounds.
The declining number of salmon can be attributed to many issues including trash that is left along the banks of rivers. If we, the fishermen, have total disregard for a fish’s environment then we do not deserve a salmon season.
Salmon fishing is a privilege, not a right.
The next time you are fishing and you see a piece of trash, please pick it up. If not you might catch a fish that has spent a few months swimming upstream in an attempt to spawn while smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and eating plastic.
If the trash at Shanghai Bend is an indication to the health of our fish and fisheries, we are in real trouble.