On Thursday, some amazing volunteers from the Timberlake Job Corps joined us for yet another Salmon Toss in the upper Clackamas river. For once these hard workers were able to help out right in their own backyard as we were chucking fish only a few minutes from the Job Corps campus rather than having to drive all the way out to a site closer to Portland. We were also joined by Jeff of Oregon Fish and Wildlife, and Becki of the Clackamas River Basin Council.
When we told the Job Corps students that they were going to be throwing a bunch of dead, and sometimes partially decayed fish around a stream, we were met with the usual looks of confusion and that particular look that says “dead fish? throwing? stream? How did these people who are obviously off their rockers get their hands on so many fish?” But when we explained that we were doing this to mimic the historic salmon runs where much more salmon than today would swim up to these sites, spawn, and die, their faces changed to that very specific “they kind of seem to be making kind of logical sense, but I am still skeptical of these people’s sanity” look we all know. Then when we explained that the dead carcasses from the historic salmon runs provided a lot of nutrients for the streamside community that they are no longer receiving, their faces changed to that common expression that said “okay, they are throwing some legitimate science terms around like ‘riparian’ and ‘nutrient cycling’ around, maybe there is something to what they are telling us.” But when Jeff opened up the first large tote of salmon, and their odor smacked us in the face, rather stunned expressions of shock, disgust, and repulsion, the Job Corps students just got to work. Without hesitation, they jumped up on the truck, rolled up their sleeves, and started unloading the fish, some diving elbow-deep into the fishy mess.
Becki meanwhile had some students help her out with a survey the Clackamas River Basin Council was conducting with aquatic macroinvertebrates (or bugs) in the streams. They placed some of the salmon in a wire cage, tied the cage to a rope, threw it in the stream, and anchored it to the stream bank. In a week, Becki and other members of the Clackamas River Basin Council will retrieve the cages, take out the salmon and investigate them to see what is feeding on the dead carcasses.
The Job Corps students were such amazing workers! We always love working with the Job Corps, and look forward to the next time they come help us and our watersheds out.