Local fish club offers salmon viewing

Spawning is tough work, and nearly all salmon die after finishing, or even attempting, the job.

But the fish don’t die in vain, one of the members of The Kitsap Poggie Club told a group of Sidney Glen Elementary School third-graders Thursday, explaining that any decomposing fish in the water help feed the bugs that will eventually feed any salmon eggs that have been laid.

This and plenty of other tidbits about the life and death of salmon will be offered again today as the Kitsap Poggie Club hosts an open house at Otto Jarstad Park along Gorst Creek, where the salmon they help the Suquamish Tribe raise are now returning, ready to spawn.

“We will have members there telling people about the fish, and people can view the fish from one of two viewing platforms we have set up,” said Ray Frederick, a member of the club.

On Thursday, Carol Nelson and her third-graders were at the park to learn not only about salmon, but noxious weeds and water quality.

Of course, the biggest draws were either the table where a biologist dissected a salmon, or the platform above the pond where club members caught and displayed squirming fish.

Nelson said she has worked with Frederick for years, and he walks her classes through the entire process.

“I come in January with some eggs for them, and they raise them in aquariums in their classroom,” Frederick said, explaining that sometimes the children are allowed to cut off the adipose fin, which must be removed from farm-raised fish in Washington state.

In the Gorst Creek Hatchery, Frederick said about 2 million fish are raised each year, then set free at a few months of age.

When they are mature, about three or four years later, they return to spawn in Gorst Creek.

Before they reach their destination, many are caught by fishermen, and those that do make it to the fish ladder are captured, studied, then eventually donated as food.

“We give all the fish to local food banks,” Frederick said, explaining that first the adult fish are checked for a “coded wire tag” that may have been inserted in their head.

About 10 percent of the hatchery fish are embedded with the tiny tags, nearly invisible to the naked eye, that serve much the same function as a pet ID tag.

“If we find a tag, we can send it off to Olympia, where they can read the tag and tell us where the fish was released,” he said, explaining that each hatchery gets a different set of tags to use on their fish.

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