I was born in the village of Ninilchik in 1927. When I was about 10-12 years old, in order to out do the other boys, I worked my way about a mile or more up the Ninilchik River. The kings were thick in the fish hole I found. I baited up my hook with fresh salmon eggs and on my first drift I hooked into a 20-25 pound king. With joy and excitement I struggled dragging it home, showing it off as I made my way.
But then I met Grandpa! I was grinning with excitement until I saw Grandpa’s face. His eyes squinted … his big bushy eyebrows came together and right there, without hesitation, he turned me over his knee. I got a spanking, I still remember, 75 years ago. After I stopped crying, and regained some composure and had his full attention, he explained.
Never, never, never harvest a fish that is ready or getting ready to spawn. This fish has been in the river for some time, you see, look, it’s turning red. It’s like a mother chicken getting ready to set … to hatch her young, to raise a brood of chicks. You just killed a bunch of new young fish. When this spawning fish has reached its nesting ground, leave it alone. That way we will always have fish.
Normally, Grandpa’s words were few as I recall. But when he spoke his words were penetrating and ingrained in my mind forever.