Moving back to North Idaho has brought about some new obsessions and strange behaviors, but nothing that surprises anyone who follows my blog. From Fall to late Winter, I have been hauling my kids to Lake Pend Orielle to watch the show of the spawning Kokanee. This life cycle blows my mind, and I felt honored to be the strange fish lady checking in on them weekly.
October: The kids and I hiked to Farragut State Park, (pictures above), at least once a week to view the Kokanee swarming in the lake, preparing to spawn. It was quite the sight- silver Kokanee swimming in large groups and not wanting ANYTHING to eat. That part was kind of annoying. The other annoying thing was when I told all of my mom friends that they HAD to take their kids to see this….and the fish school decided to be were out to lunch every time I brought someone to see it. Oh and thanks to the person that lost their gigantic three treble hook lure- it was really fun trying to hike a three year old up a mountain with a dog who had a lure stuck on three sides of his armpit. And it was also fun having to tear it out of him by myself while my other lab tried to play and the three year old was jumping off of rocks near my head. And who wrote this on a rock….I’m worried about the kid who chose to write that on a rock. #neveradullmoment #strangefishlady #Kokaneestalker
Early November: After a few visits to parts of the lake, I couldn’t find any Kokanee and decided they probably headed up the creeks and rivers to do their love thing. I brought my 3 year old down to the lake to throw rocks and found about 30 Kokanee spawning right off the shore by the docks. It was evident their spawn was over since most of these fish were mangled and starting to roll belly up. The next day, in between rain storms, my daugher and I jetted down there to fish the CFR Flygal Diaries Rod we received in the mail, to support Breast Cancer Recovery. I was honored to be able to fish this rod with my daughter, and she was overjoyed to fish a pink rod with pink fly line. We worked on her cast and I re-taught her how to strip a purple egg sucking leach. After the third cast she caught this Kokanee that had a bone sticking out of the side of it. She named him Nasty because he really was. At first I felt bad using up his energy, but then considered killing him before throwing him back. This life cycle is harsh- as I stood there watching my Kokanee friends slowing down and only waiting to die.
Late November: Two weeks after we caught ‘Nasty’, the boys and I ventured down to our usual place to see the show. Walking up on the scene of what looked like a fish massacre, brought about a quiet reflective moment for us all. We stood on the shore trying to put the pieces together like detectives, wondering why they had to die like this, and standing still for a while, appreciating the life they led.
The boys and I walked down the shore, careful not to step in dead fish. To lighten up the mood we counted fish as we walked, but failed after reaching the 200 count; the job was no match for two curious kiddos and one fish lady deep in thought. Every moment or so we would hear a thrash in the water and run over to see a fish trying not to die, throwing its fins around to try to get somewhere, to hold on to the life it still had. We watched one fish near the docks take its last gulp of water and go still. Without prompting, the boys paused on the dock for a solid two minutes, in awe of seeing life leave an animal right in front of their eyes. My oldest son whispered, “I think it’s dead mom.” I responded, “Yes it is. This fish has done what it was made to do and now it gets to rest in fishy heaven.” This strange fish lady was choked up a bit; what a beautiful thing to be a part of and reflect on. Looking down the shore, I wondered where all the birds were and how this mess of fish would get cleaned up….
December: We went to the lake to go for a walk because it was too windy to head down to the water, (I was bummed to not check on my dead fish friends). My daughter stumbled upon a fish in the woods. I swear these fish love me as much as I love them… We guessed that the bald eagles swarming above us had dropped the fish in transit, and my kids took turns carrying it on our hike like it was a flag of honor. Before we left, we laid it on a rock as tribute to the Eagles and watched from our car, but the Eagles didn’t go after it. Our next time there, the kids were eager to check on our fish and found that it had indeed been consumed, to their delight.
January: Snow!! We trekked to our normal spot for some sledding, bow shooting, and fishing, of course. The fish were frozen in the snow, but my dogs still managed to find them….
February: We ventured down to the lake early Feb to do some sledding and enjoy a sunny day. Surprised that the snow was all melted, I was eager to go see what state the fish were in after the melt off. I was even more perplexed to roam the entire beach and not find one single fish head, bone, or any sign of the fish massacre scene! WHAT? I put my kids on the mission of finding me some sign of the late Kokanee and they found these:
I tried to be the investigative detective, but could not figure it out. How did nature just clean this up in only a few month’s time? I never saw any seagulls there or birds harvesting the dead fish!? Beyond bewildered, I was impressed at nature and it’s design. Often, the things that we humans don’t play a hand in end up being the most impressive.
Get those kids outside and be your strange selves! Has anyone else enjoyed a spawn like this? I have been blessed to experience the sockeye salmon and king salmon spawn in Alaska for a summer, but this was special for me because I was able to include my kids in the adventure. Thanks to The Flygal Diaries, for the sweet fly rod experience with my daughter! Keep on keeping on, little Kokanee fry….see you soon.
Strange Fish Lady/ Mammaflybox