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I wonder what Pa would have thought of this year's 34.5 million-strong sockeye salmon run in the Fraser River. He is on the far right in this picture. The other men are my uncles and some local fishermen; they're posing with a sturgeon. Pa passed away last year. We had to have his funeral in the high school gym to seat all the people wanting to come say goodbye.
My grandpa McEachern's name was Bruce, but he was mostly just called Pa by the many whose lives he touched in the community of Albion, B.C. on the shore of the Fraser River where I grew up. He started fishing in the 1930s a little while after coming out to the Port Kells area from Saskatchewan with his parents Marietta and Dan McEachern and a few of the rest of their nine-boy, two-girl brood.
There were three things you could realistically do to earn a living when you got out to the coast in those days; you logged, farmed or fished. Pa did some of all three, but eventually settled into commercial gill netting. Fishing with a gill net means stretching a net across the width of the river, keeping one end attached to your boat, and then rolling it back onto what looks like a giant thread spool on its side in the rear of the boat and is called a drum, "picking" the fish out of the net as you go. Supposedly, the local First Nations (Katzie) shared some of their tricks with Pa and his dad. This is probably one of the reasons why once he and my grandma started up a little general store which they called Bruce's Market (still at 240th Street and Lougheed Highway), they were ready to be as generous as they were with the amount of credit they gave people on their grocery tabs.
The salmon in the river this year were born four years ago, and the eggs they lay over the coming weeks will be coming back four years from now. Some people are calling this year's big numbers a whacky result of temperature fluctuations or fish farming out here on the West Coast; but it'll be interesting to see what the marine biologists have to say over the next few years.
As a fisherman's daughter, though, mostly all I'm thinking about is how stellar it is to see my family more excited than they've ever been about the river fishery. We've had years without any openings at all in the Fraser; even just last year it was a piddly 1.5 million.
The last day of the commercial sockeye fishery this year was September 6th. They have to close it when the rarer Coho and Steelhead species start coming up the river so they don't get caught. I went out with my brother just to be a part of the action for a couple of hours. Here are some shots from the day.