Up the Beach — Spring is here

Spring has sprung. How do I know? About 12 varieties of local pussy willows are displaying catkins, birds are busy nest building, deer are shedding winter coats and the true harbinger of spring—skunk cabbage—is bright yellow in all the soggy spots around the North Beach.

Finagling for angling

But … The real reason I know spring is here is that there are men, sans wives, at the recent yard sales scouting out fishing tackle. God forbid they should have a lull between late steelies and April trout seasons. So why are they thinking fishing season? Not because the flora and fauna say so. They know the past weeks and into April is spawning season.

Pilchard push

Pilchard has a complicated migration from South East Alaska to the Baja. The young pilchards are called sardines. Probably the largest run of this species was in 1936-37 when 1.5 billion spawned in Canadian and U.S. waters during the late spring to early summer seasons.

Supersize sturgeon

Ah, and sturgeon. White sturgeon are the largest fish in American waters. They live in the Northwest coast and river waters with the female producing in excess of 1.2 million eggs. They are reported to attain a weight of 1,800-1,900 pounds.

The species Huso huse, in the Volga, Caspian and Black seas, exceed 2,000 pounds. One caught exceeded 2,000 pounds. But the real record breaker weighed 3,250 pounds for its 14-foot length. It produced 320 pounds of roe — now that is some big mess of caviar.

So you can see why those fishers spend their winters reading, jawboning and then get all excited when spawning season arrives.

Salmon outlook awesome

The prognosticators are saying the 2014 season for spring Chinook, coho and fall Chinook salmon look amazing with a total of 1,602,900 predicted for the entire Columbia River. Now local fishers who like to escape south for a different brand of summer fishing are wondering just what effect the lowering of the Bonneville dam will have on that high number. Early and late returns of 2014 coho are predicted to be better than three times the 301,500 return in 2013.

Deer delights

The influx of tourists recently for the Clam Festival produced a huge crowd of deer watchers on the neighborhood streets of Ocean Shores. This is the time of year to come around a curve and be startled by a car parked in the middle of the street with doors open while the occupants are holding phones, ipads and other pieces of technology up in the air while taking snapshots of the “wild” deer.

Come to think of it, one should never forget they are wild animals. In Penticton B.C., aggressive deer have been attacking people and pets. That city, like Ocean Shores, passed a bylaw at the beginning of 2012 prohibiting feeding wildlife. For those critters that have become too used to human handouts, the Penticton Indian band has stepped in to tag and move the habituated deer to pastures owned by the tribe. Sheesh. Perhaps the Quinaults will consider making that fenced area on their huge plot of land in between Point Brown Avenue and Marine View Drive a temporary “wildlife” refuge.

Clams &robots

Before clam season gets clear away from us, the new robot inspired by razor clam digging has been a subject over the coffee cups. The new device may be an environmentally safe way to lay down more intercontinental undersea fiber-optic cables. That has an interest on the North Beaches as the cables installed off the Pacific Beach community a little over a decade ago flopped all over the place due to improper installation.

It took the muscle of the National Marine Sanctuary to get Uncle Sam to pony up and affix the darn things on the sea bed. So, this new device may prevent another such incident.

The Atlantic razor clam looks like a folded up jack knife. It isn’t fat and sassy like our razor clams. But, they are just as elusive as our razors. According to Amina Khan of the LA Times, when researchers compared the digging capacity of the clam to commercial digging devices, it was 10 times more efficient and it consumed far less energy to do so.

It is their “fluidizing” of sand that causes the it to be less stable and thus easier to displace.

The RoboClam developed by MIT is working. Maybe some entrepreneur on the beach may get one and rent it out next clam season. Hmm, guess one would have to ask Dan Ayres if that would be legal.

Camel track tracking

Since spring brings out the silliness in everyone who has been suffering from cabin fever, what is funny-making in the news recently is the discovery of ancient camel tracks in the Northwest. Now that is interesting because more mammal teeth, skulls and other bones have been found on the Quinault Reservation than in any other Grays Harbor spots. So—is it too far fetched to think the beachcombers might find a fossilized camel track on the beach?

Last month paleontologists and Idaho State University students have been exploring the trackways along the edge of American Falls Reservoir. The trackway also included prints from llamas and a Canis dirus wolf. When one sees camels they think of the far east and of huge sandy deserts, yet, “Camels originated in North America as did llamas,” according to Mary Thompson of the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Now the coffee drinkers can fire up their arguments about the presence of camels on the beach and not just the ones that were rented for rides in Ocean Shores last summer.

Herring bearing

Herring and their relatives have been spawning busily the past weeks, some in fresh water, but mostly in the sea. Salmon and trout — which were originally only in the Northern Hemisphere with none further south than California — are certainly spawning. Each female Herring lays 30,000 eggs that hatch 10 to 40 days later, depending upon the temperature of the water.

Fishy facts

Even if you’re not an avid angler, be kind to the fishers who are mulling over the characteristics of spawning fish. That sure beats talking about politics and sleazy film stars.

The non-fisher is apt to think, “So what?” Little do they know all those fish secrets that true fishers know. Since more than 7/10s of the world surface is covered with water, that gives the fishers and the curious some interesting bits of information to think about, like:

• Fish have a body temperature that closely follows water and air.

• The two-chambered heart of a fish separates it from reptiles and amphibians.

• Fresh water fish are subject to greater extremes in water in which they inhabit.

• Few waters are entirely isolated from other fish and some species can adapt since many fish have nearly the same density of the water in which they live. To compensate for density of bone and flesh, fish have bladders to make adjustments.

• Gills extract oxygen to throw off carbon dioxide in warm or stagnant water. • Fish have accessory breathing organs to breathe in direct air. Some are so dependent on this organ that they can drown in water.

• Do fish drink water? You bet. Both sea and freshwater fish do so.

• Depending on the species, fish have differently developed vision capabilities. Trout have acute eyesight. Bass can perceive colors, which makes them great fish for striking flies. Smell-minded fish like sturgeon are also taste-minded and have barbels (feelers) to explore their surroundings. Many have barbels and taste buds all over their bodies, even in their tails. Fish also are sensitive to chemical substances.

• Fish have ears that balance and detect sound waves. They also have a system of canals under their skin that communicates with exterior pores along a lateral body line. These are easily visible in striped bass. They feel vibrations in the water.

• While fish have noses, they do not use them to smell, nor to breathe.

Gene Woodwick may be reached at 360-289-2805 or genewoodwick@coastaccess.com.


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