Written by SOLVE Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest member Nicole Poletto
Clackamas High School Salmon Toss on 11.2.12
Do you smell that? *sniff* *sniff* It smells overwhelmingly like dead fish…You know what that must mean…it is time for the first salmon toss of the school year! Meghan and Nicole from SOLVE, Jeff from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Becki from Clackamas River Basin Council were all there to share this exciting day with Clackamas High School students.
But why are we throwing 200 dead hatchery salmon in the stream? Throughout their lives and even after they die, salmon are a part of the food chain for 137 known species, including salmon fry! Thus by throwing their carcasses in the stream we are returning vital nutrients to the ecosystem. That is a pretty good excuse to get covered in fish guts during the school day if you ask me.
Students geared up in fashionable compostable trash bags (so “in” right now) and not just one layer of gloves, but two, in preparation for the blood and guts that awaited them. A few brave souls hopped in the truck (which by the end of the day was dripping with blood) to throw the salmon carcasses to their classmates. Then, one by one, the salmon were dropped, tossed, and lovingly chucked into the stream.
In order to learn more about salmon, Meghan and Nicole (SOLVE) guided the students through a dissection. One of the first things that you notice when you touch the fish is how slimy it is! The slime helps the fish slip away from predators such as bears, glide through the water and over rocky surfaces, and also serves as a protective barrier from diseases. Not sure if your salmon is a boy or a girl? If you missed the hook of the mouth that signifies it is a male, you will be sure of the gender when eggs start to spill out of the female. The students began to cut out the body parts one by one like the gills, liver, stomach, and pyloric caeca (which looks an awful lot like spaghetti) not only to learn more about the anatomy but also to decorate their Mr. Fish E Guts face.
After a very fishy morning, we kicked back by the fire and ate some traditionally prepared salmon and pine needle tea. Delicious! Don’t worry, they weren’t the same non-refrigerated salmon we were tossing in the stream.
It had been a beautiful morning out in Estacada and a great start to salmon tossing season! Thanks Clackamas High School – that was pretty gutsy of you!