For Love Of Salmon

I’m barefoot in a little cotton dress when I hit the river, running into it like my feet have always known it. Some of the fishermen, standing knee deep in the water, one every few feet as far as I can see, stare at me. Some don’t. I dive and catch the salmon just as it hits the water, bring it up, present it to the fisherman.

“Woops, you dropped your fish!”

Oh, no, he explains that that part has bones in it, and it’s better to just eat the little slice he’s taken off each side.

No. I show him how to clean the fish and how to cut big salmon steaks, and promise that the bones won’t hurt him any more than the bones in chicken wings.

Okay, he says, okay, I’ll try it this way.

Thanks, I really appreciate it. I smile, squeeze my boobs together with my arms, and invite him to the titty bar later.

I walk further along the shore, ducking the flicks of fish hooks from careless fishermen.

Soon I am jumping again, another fish.

“Woops! You dropped your fish!”

No, no, he says. I didn’t drop it, I’m done with it. Get out of my way.

No. My feet run deep in these rocks.

Where are you from, little girl? California? He snorts.

I name a village I was born in.

Oh, Canada, he says.

No, Alaska. Let me show you how you can eat this whole fish.

Whatever, he humors me and I walk back along the shore, ducking.

When they won’t take the fish, when they insist on throwing them in the river where the bears will come to eat them and they will shoot the bears, I take the fish and put them in my bucket on shore.

Do you believe in life, in staying alive? If you do, you’ll want to live in a world with more salmon every year, where they thrash in the water so thick and white that every scoop of the fish wheel brings you five or six of them. This isn’t that world though, the people in power don’t care about life, and so there are less fish every year. Less and less fish, so that no one has dogs anymore and pollock boats throw away hundreds of thousands of salmon every summer, and still they come from all around the world to kill the salmon that are left. Obviously, the people in power shouldn’t be.

I’ve converted fourteen men and have a bucket of salmon (they are big, so it doesn’t take many) by the time the cop comes. Fish and Game, Fish and Wildlife, I can never remember, but it’s the same guy as last year and he remembers my name.

“Tara,” he yells, “come over here.”

No, if you want to talk to me you come in here, I laugh and I move out to deeper water, crossing my fingers against the fish hooks that must float around me.

Hey, a grandfatherly man wades out to me, why don’t you make this easier on yourself? Just go talk to him.

Oh, yes, it’s always easy for us to do what they want, as easy as it was for the Jews to walk into those Nazi death showers. It’s easier not to resist, it’s just a shower. I tell grampa that resistance is self defense, and I sit down in the water.

The cop sighs, gets out his waders, and wades out to me. His feet don’t know the rocks, so he lurches and makes big splashes, even with his waders on.

Look, he says, you can’t do this, we went through this last year. You can’t take these fish, you have to catch your own, with your own liscense.

Do you want to arrest me again? Does it make you feel like a big man to drag a girl out of the river in handcuffs? Do you ever wonder why you can shoot me but I can’t shoot you? I want to ask, but I don’t. It’s really never a good idea to talk to cops, so I don’t.

He tells me that I want to be arrested, but he doesn’t want to do this. He wants to give me an opportunity to think about my behavior, to follow the rules. He’s going to take my bucket of fish, and he’s going to come back in fifteen minutes and I better be gone.

You better eat those fish, I yell after him as he splashes away. If you throw those fish in the river you’re going to hell!

Under stress, I threaten them with their own threats. I don’t know why.

I wait until he drives away before coming to shore, walking along, diving…

“Woops! You dropped your fish!”

The cop doesn’t come back this year.


  1. You are so frickin incredible, by which I mean seriously and righteously awesome. This post made my day better, for real. I love how you just run with it, bold and glorious, brilliant. Inspiring stuff, you know.

    I think your writing has improved over time, as well. Great stuff.

  2. I didn’t really follow that. Are the fishermen throwing the fish back in the water? Why?

  3. They slice off a filet from each side and throw the rest back, lots of perfectly good gorgeous fish wasted. It really shocked me when I saw this.

    In Oregon they shoot rubber bullets at the sea lions and build fences to stop them from eating the salmon, because, you know, it’s the sea lions decimating the population, not the actions of humans.

    The pile in the lower right hand corner is the fish they leave behind.

  4. Kate, like Susan said, they just cut a little piece off both sides and throw the rest of the fish back in the river. They do it because they are rich and have never eaten fish except at fancy restaurants where they only serve that cut and so they think that’s the only part of a fish you eat, or because they or their wives back home don’t want bones.

  5. Thank you Tara.
    This story made me take my first truly deep breath all week.

    Thank you
    for being Super Eco Feminist Girl to the rescue!
    and for telling it so well.
    We’ve all resorted to using their threats, but, few of us have written so eloquently and honestly about it.

  6. Tara, I haven’t commented on your blog before, but you are amazing. Sometimes you feel like the last truly natural human, in a world of pretence and ignorance.
    I hope you never give up being who you are, because who you are is the kind of person I would like to be.

  7. Great post – and it goes to hilight the waste that somepeople make without caring.

    When I have a salmon to deal with, I cook it 2 ways – either I leave it whole and portion it up after it has been cooked, or I do take the fillets of the side (reason is that I have very young children who could choke on the bones). But I don’t throw the rest of the fish away 😯 I boil the bones, the rest of the fish etc up with vegetables and make a lovely fish stock. Then I use that as the basis of a fish soup or stew.

    No waste that way.

  8. I have never commented on your posts either, but I empathize with you – I am a stripper, and I dream of roaming free!
    You inspire me to read about herbs, control the wallets of men, to drive a home around the States and tell the internet about it too.
    These are all things I have wanted to do for a while, but reading this blog has actually been an inspiration for fulfilling my dreams.


  9. oh, ok. I thought at first they were catch and release fish, and was so impressed that you could catch one with your hands, ha ha.

  10. I know plenty of people who fish, but around here we either throw ’em back alive and well or eat what we catch.

    I didn’t understand how these “fishermen” slice parts off of the fish either until I read the other comments. That’s sick (beyond-words-for-it sick). Thank you for doing something creative, loving and wonderful about something so ugly.

  11. I was stunned. I’ve never heard of people cutting off what fish they want to eat and tossing back the rest! The smell must be god-awful. Around here, you either throw back the whole fish or you cook the whole fish.. This fish cutting is on par with deer “hunting” where the hunter cuts off a hind leg and dumps the rest in a roadside ditch. Any why isn’t that illegal? The fish and game guy was getting on to the wrong person.

  12. I had heard of this practice, Tara. I heard it was rare, and even then, it pissed me off.

    Hearing/Reading your account here makes me want to buy fresh loads for my psitol and go a-huntin’ rich bastards. I already have issues with the wealthy. I’d like to start a revolution where the top 5% of the income totem pole gets fucked like they’ve been doing it forever to the rest of us.

    I am angry now. I imagine I’ll cool down, but this story will find its way into my classroom. Believe me, it will.

    ~ Irish

  13. Irish, you should make the catholic kids read Endgame, by Derrick Jensen. Or Walking On Water, if you can’t get away with Endgame.

  14. I have seen some of my more eco-aware students reading Jensen before, usually in Colorado. I haven’t read his works myself. I could not swing ENDGAME at my current school, beased on the online description I just read though, Tara. I will pick up a copy, however. I’ve taken to reading more nonj-fiction anyway, last few years. For school, I have been looking at old books and articles by Farley Mowat and Brenda Peterson. They are a little less “in your face” and aggressive about ecological improvements than Jensen. The same message comes across, and is hopefully received, via their prose. Maybe they will get into one of my lessons. And I will quote you, sans the weblink … that’d be a bit scandalous, what with me being a good boy and all! 😳 ~ Irish

  15. That’s so funny to think of me being quoted in Catholic School.

    Walking on Water is Jensen’s book about teaching. It’s hardly revolutionary at all, don’t worry. 😀

  16. I could bring a pole in to class, and play some “Lil Jon” and say, “Today’s quote comes to us from the Land of the Midnight Sun – ‘Fuck rich bastards and feed them to the fish! Love, Tara'” … now, let’s get back to Ernest Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea” … 😉 ~ Irish

  17. I hadn’t heard of this practice before. In this neck of the woods (northeast USA) I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t eat the entirety of what they catch… or just use non-barbed hooks and “catch and release”. But then, we don’t have salmon fishing of the size and scale of that of the western USA.

  18. “as easy as it was for the Jews to walk into those Nazi death showers. ”

    Ok, for crap’s sake. Are you completely devoid of any sense of proportion?

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