Game Fishing > Freshwater Fish > Salmon fish

Salmon fish

Salmon fishFirst, among game fishes, the salmon is supreme, not only in its gallant resistance and fighting qualities, but, perhaps, in its value to the human race as a highly prized and nutritious food. Its beautiful and shapely form, especially when first taken from the water (if a newly run fish), gives its captor the greatest pleasure. With pardonable pride, as he beholds its shiny, silvery sides, he exclaims, every time he lands one, "What a noble and brave antagonist!"

The two most important species are the quinnat salmon of the Pacific, and the Atlantic salmon - the latter inhabiting the North Atlantic, and ascending many of the rivers for the purpose of reproduction. The most southern river in which specimens have been obtained, is the Potomac. It occurs in the Delaware and in the Hudson, but in these three rivers its presence is the result of artificial introduction. Its occurrence in Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence River, and tributaries of Lake Ontario, is due also to modern fish culture. The State of Maine has many ideal salmon rivers, and a few of these fish are caught; but less than should be.

Beginning at the south in the River St. Lawrence, and farther east in Nova Scotia, which has a number of small but fair streams, and following the north shore of the river and of the Localities Gulf of St. Lawrence up to the Strait of Belle Isle, there are scores of tributary rivers abounding in salmon. The Miramiche and Nepisiguit are probably the best of those south of the Restigouche in the Bay of Chaleurs. This river is a large and beautiful stream, running back between the Province of Quebec and New Brunswick, a distance of over two hundred miles, with four large tributaries, the Metapedia, the Upsalquitch, the Patapedia, and the Kedgwick. It flows in a generally north-east direction and has in its entire course no falls or rapids which a canoe cannot surmount.

A Salmon Club has purchased a large portion of the best angling on the river, and the rod fishing yields about twelve hundred salmon and grilse yearly, which is far below its probable production if netting were not so prevalent. For this reason, the average size of the fish is diminishing. On the other side of the Bay of Chaleurs is the Grand Bonaventure and the famous Grand Cascapedia - both full of large fish, some being taken of over fifty pounds; but the average is probably twenty-five pounds.

Only eight fish per day are allowed to be, taken by one rod. The St. Anne des Monts is another good river of the north shore, where fish run large. The vast, practically unexplored region north of the Strait of Belle Isle extending up to Davis Strait and to the West including a thousand miles of shore line of Hudson Bay is undoubtedly full of salmon rivers, where a fly has never been cast.

Of the Pacific salmons, the quinnat salmon is the largest and most prized. It is known under various names, such as the chinook, tyee, king salmon, Columbia River, and Sacramento Salmon. It ranges from Monterey, California, to Alaska and eastern Asia, ascending rivers in some cases fifteen hundred miles, or farther, from the sea. It is the largest of the salmon family individuals weighing one hundred pounds, and upward of five feet in length, being on record, taken from the Yukon and other rivers. The flesh of this salmon is paler than the red salmon, but it is superior in flavor to all others and very valuable for canning, salting, and smoking.

The quinnat is first seen in Monterey Bay as early as January, and many are caught by anglers for several months while the fish are frequenting this rendezvous and becoming fat on small fish preparatory to entering the Golden Gate and beginning their long and last journey up the Sacramento, which stream many have entered by February. In March this fish is seen in the Columbia, but not until May does it become abundant. It seeks the shores of southern Alaska in May, and probably reaches the Yukon the latter part of June. The runs continue for four to six months in southern waters, while in northern Alaska the running season is very short, not exceeding six weeks.

The other species of the Pacific salmons - but of lesser value - are the blue-back salmon, humpback, silver, dog, and the steelhead salmon. The latter, while in reality a trout, is popularly regarded as a salmon. It feeds freely in fresh water and does not die in the streams after spawning, but returns to the sea. It is a general favorite on account of its size, beauty, gameness, and food value, and will be mentioned with the trout.

The ouananiche is a fierce-fighting, fresh water understudy of the Atlantic salmon, often wrongfully termed landlocked. Its home is in Lake St. John, Province of Quebec, and at the outlet which forms the River Saguenay; it also thrives in many of the rivers that flow into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in the rivers of Labrador. This fish loves rapid and turbulent waters, and because of the life it leads, it is beyond doubt, for its size, the most vigorous and athletic fish that inhabits northern waters. It will leap from the water seven or eight times after being hooked, and with the greatest rapidity rush down below one hundred feet. A fish weighing three to four pounds will make a fight lasting from ten to fifteen minutes.

Its food consists mostly of flies, which it picks from out of the foam that lies in blankets, sometimes forty to sixty feet in extent, washed down by the swirling flood moving round and round below the rapids. In such pools the ouananiche is fished for with fine but strong tackle, and nothing but flies are used. In the fall it takes a small minnow, but the cream of the fishing is from June 15th to July 15th. At the Grande Decharge, it is fished for from a canoe handled by two Canadian guides, or, on some of the small islands that rise up steep from the water, the angler casts his flies from the rocks above and the guide nets them.

The Sebago salmon, of Maine, is a similar fresh­water species and is found in the lake of that name. It attains a weight of fifteen pounds but averages from eight to ten pounds. It does not manifest the fighting qualities of the ouananiche owing to the quiet waters it inhabits.