Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sockeye Saga Madness

Ah, I've been trying to get to this post for so long!

The bane of my summer! Sockeye Season.


Well, let me start at the beginning.

I knew this hosting job would include the dreaded Sockeye fishing season. I was pre-warned. I just had no idea what to expect. Some of it turned out to be not as bad as I feared and some worse. I guess that is pretty typical of any new experience one embarks on. I will say that my stress level leading up to it was beyond healthy. First off, they opened the season early - typically it opens early August, but this year it opened mid July. Fisher people started pouring into the campground the Sunday before and I was PACKED for 3 weeks straight and still mostly packed for another week and a half. Now that is just those who were camping! This doesn't include all the day users coming in with their trucks and boats at all hours of the day and night. Insanely crazy was an understatement.

Unfortunately the kick-off to the season was NOT good. As if my stress level wasn't already maxed out, I returned from my second day off that first week, on the eve of the season opening in the foulest mood ever. I had only been back maybe an hour when I heard someone yelling for help. Everyone stopped to see if it was a real call for help or just someone playing around, but as the yelling got more hysterical we knew. The campers who were camped by my campsite all went running as I grabbed my phone and truck keys. I got over to the campsite where the incident was happening to find that someone had what was most likely a heart attack. One of the campers already had 911 on the phone so I drove to the other end of the campground (where I can sometimes get a cell signal) to try to call my boss to let them know what was happening then drove back to tell the people that I would meet the emergency vehicles up the road and bring them down. By the time the first wave of paramedics and I had returned to the scene, they had the guy on the ground and were giving CPR -the paramedics took over and I went to direct traffic (remember, it is the eve of Sockeye season opening and we have trucks with boats pouring in!). I think we ended up with 4 ambulances, 1 fire emergency truck and 1 big fire truck filling the small area of the campground. They did lifeflight the man out, but unfortunately he didn't survive. Kind of put me in my place as to whining about my stress level. He had been fishing here for years and it was one of his favorite places. I only hope I'm that fortunate when it is my time to go - quickly and in one of my favorite places.

So that was the kick-off to Sockeye season.

Then that night I had to be up and out working at 3 a.m., directing traffic and collecting fees. This went on for the next 5 nights. I tried to enlist the help of others by offering a 3:30 a.m. breakfast potluck, but no one ever came. I just don't understand why not. EVERYONE loves a Potluck! Of course I still had all my daytime campground work to do as well, making my days 12+ hours long sometimes. Not fun. And it was still COLD and windy too. The campground is small and there is very little parking for those camping let alone a bunch of trucks and boat trailers. Like I said before, it was insanely crazy. That first morning reminded me of that scene from "Jaws" just after that little boy went missing and everyone was swarming the marina to get out there to catch the shark! Yep, that was pretty much the scene at my campground and boat launch – just minus the shark.

Boats out fishing the first morning.  This is only a tiny view of the whole 5 mile long lake!
During those early morning hours I had fun with some of the fishermen that came regularly. I told one guy he had a cute boat. Another fisherman heard me and said "Don't tell a man his boat is 'Cute'!". I said "but it IS cute. It's not sleek or speedy or fancy, it's short and squatty and therefore 'cute'!". There were several fishermen that came with the same "cute" boats - they were actually made for river fishing. I also gave them hell for complaining about the wind. How hard could it be? They were using motors, not paddling. Plus THEY got to be out on a gorgeous lake, with a beautiful view all around. Besides it wasn’t like they were really fishing. They didn't even hold their fishing poles! That's not fishing! Besides, the fish deserve a fighting chance too. I have to say that I was initially happy to hear for the fishes' sake that the fishermen often lost more than they caught, but now that the season has gone on forever, I am telling them they need to do better in getting those 37,000 fish caught so the madness will end! 

I was talking to one of my camper fishermen one night before the season opened and he was explaining that Sockeye come back to the lake where they initially started out, and will hang out there for about a month before heading up into the rivers and streams where they will spawn and die. I found this very interesting – that they hung out in a lake first. Of course not having internet where I am, I hadn't been able to check out the lifecycle of Sockeye Salmon. I asked him if it was the Sockeye that had the gnarly mouths and humps; he said the males do once they get up into the rivers to spawn. After he explained all this, I thought for a few moments then said: "Oh, I get it! The lake is like the bar, where all the salmon hang out, the boys checking out the girls, the girls checking out the boys, buying drinks for each other, getting drunk, dancing, and singing bad karaoke. Then the rivers are like the seedy motels and the backseats of cars where they get it on! Then like going home drunk with a stranger, you sometimes wake up and get a good look at what you just slept with!! Aacckkkk! Then you die." - of embarrassment in the human world, or for real in the salmon world. He laughed and said, “Yep, that was pretty much it! You nailed it!” So there you have it folks – Jordan’s Sockeye Salmon mating analogy.

Sockeye Salmon when it enters the lake

Male Sockeye ready to "get it on" up river!

I think it was on the 4th morning of 12 + hour days, that was the coldest morning of all and besides falling asleep standing up, I was so cold I couldn’t hold the pen any longer to write down license plates. When I left the boat launch area to go back to my trailer to get some breakfast, I decided to go sit in my car and turn on the heat and try to get warm. Of course this brought about a slight problem – warming up makes you more tired! I turned the car off and I set my alarm on my phone for 20 minutes so I could try to catch a quick nap. Next thing I know someone is knocking on my window. I bolt awake to find the sheriff standing there – a very young, handsome, hottie sheriff too! It took me a few moments to figure out where I was and what was going on. Turned out he had come out to evict a problem camper I had and was letting me know how that went. I was so embarrassed! I already looked like crap being the end of a long week of work, dirty and probably stinky, then being caught sleeping in my car by the sheriff – probably snoring loudly with my mouth hanging open drooling! And not just any sheriff, but a handsome, young hottie sheriff! Humiliation just follows me everywhere, like bad weather. Think I’d be used to both by now.

I have missed having my furbabies with me, but know that I can’t care for any right now between lack of space and money. As much as I want to get one, I know that wouldn’t be fair to whatever I would take in. I have said that when the time is right, the right critter will find me. Well, I need to learn to be more specific. A little side story to explain. Many years ago while working at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I went to a class they were offering on using visualization to get what you want. It was very interesting and convincing. I decided to try it out. I lived in a very tiny guest house at the time and needed a small table to sit at. I had the type of table I wanted in mind, but couldn’t find anything like it. One day, after really trying to visualize the table, I was driving by a house having a garage sale and as I went past noticed a table inside that looked very similar to what I wanted, so I stopped. I asked if the table were for sale – it was just what I had been looking for - and the guy said no, but he’d ask his wife. I told him I probably couldn’t pay them what they’d want for it, only $30. He said he’d ask anyway. He came back out and told me she said that was fine, but they couldn’t sell the chairs with it because they used them. I gave him the $30 and took the table, laughing to myself the whole way home – I forgot to visualize the CHAIRS with the table! Just assumed they would come with it. Since then, it has become this joke with me – I always seem to forget to visualize the WHOLE picture – or be specific with what it is that I want. Inevitably, something is always missing or not exactly what I pictured. So it was with the whole pet thing. One day in the middle of Sockeye Madness, a young girl came to my campsite with a box saying that another camper told her to bring it to me. Inside was a seagull with a broken wing. I looked at it and knew I couldn’t do anything with the wing without causing more damage so told her how to care for it until the next day and I would try to find a place that could take it and either rehab it or euthanize it. I made some contacts and eventually found someone who would take it to a vet to be euthanized since the regional rehabber couldn’t take it. Yeah, I know, it’s a gull – a sea rat. But it’s still a living thing and hurting and scared – it deserves to be treated with love and respect in my opinion. The girl returned not too much later saying her dad wouldn’t let her keep in their HUGE motorhome. So I got to keep it in my tiny teardrop that night. Probably better for the gull’s sake anyway. Of course I found myself laughing again - not being amused by the cosmos’s sense of humor in my lack of specifying things again. Will I EVER learn!? Doubt it.

Two Sundays ago we had another emergency out here, though this one had a happy ending thank goodness! A teenage girl had taken her sailboat out that morning and the wind picked up good with some pretty wicked gusts. One of the gusts caught her just right and capsized her boat. She was fine, just wet and very cold from being in this glacial fed lake. One of the emergency crew people who came down happened to be one that was here for the first emergency at the opening of Sockeye Season and had also been one of my regular fishermen those first 2 weeks. The last time I saw him I had told him if I saw him again it better NOT be for another emergency - and here it was, for an emergency. I then asked him if this signaled the end of Sockeye Season since the previous emergency kicked it off, but regrettably, he and another co-worker said no, it was never going to end. I had a feeling they were going to say that. The girl was fine, the salmon, not so much.

After all the insanity of the past 1 ½ months and promises of a salmon, I never did get one to try. Kinda bummed about that. I didn’t need a whole fish, but would have really like to have tried a fresh one on the grill. I was given lots of promises for some, but no one ever delivered on them. Oh well, I like to think the one I would have eaten is still out there in the lake, rather pickled by now from drinking for over a month, still singing really bad karaoke, and getting ready to get it on with the ladies up in the rivers soon! Better he’s out there to spread his seed than in my stomach. I hope that his offspring have great adventures and all return to have a go at it themselves in several years. I’m planning to head up to their “seedy motels” (rivers) to see them doing their thing before I leave. Hope they give me a good show!

This was my "Sad Sockeye" someone left by the boat launch.

For more information about these amazing fish, click here: Sockeye Salmon


  1. Quite the summer experience - your visualization of the table minus the chairs is priceless.

    1. The table chair thing has become a regular occurrence in my life with too many things! :O) I just say "I forgot the chairs again" and move on. My sister has even adopted it!

  2. Oh. My. God. The hottie sheriff... Oh I know how mortified I would have been too. Ok, in your embarrassment, did you check to see if he was married or not (i.e. ring?!)

    I am so sorry about the man dying from the heart attack. Jesus, Jordan you sound like you have had a super stressful summer, but I have to admit, that scenery is gorgeous. But I am very happy for you that you will be traveling down that Oregon coast. It is so freakingly gorgeous. If I could afford to live there.... oh man....instead I will live vicariously through you and your pictures I know you will take.

    And as for the potluck at 3:30 a.m. - well, the time might have had something to do with the low (read: no) turnout. ;-)

    1. The hottie Sheriff was way too young for me, making it even more embarrassing!

      My getting up at 3:30 a.m. was a miracle in itself! Now, staying up till then would have been easy - I'm a night owl. And none of the fishermen ever brought me breakfast either. :o(

  3. Safe travels as you head down the coast. I look forward to your next post.