Wilderness and Nature

Kenai King Salmon fishery open

Kenai River Alaska 2012

4:22 a.m., July 2, 2013.

I am asleep, feeling tugged from a force swirling around me. My inner awareness, wake up. WAKE UP.

My bedroom is lit by the midnight sun. WHAT? I think to myself, groggy. Naked, I climb from bed, walk across parquet wood floor to check the time. My iPhone reads 4:22 a.m. The dog sleeps.

It’s a muscle memory that wakes me. King Salmon season on the Kenai River is open. And I am in bed still wrestling with this concept of catch and release, catch and keep in a time of low returns, low abundance, and a whole slew of ethics in a fishery in peril.

This fishery and river that called me to live in Alaska has given me several of the best days of my life. Today I am not at our family lodge having cooked breakfast for our guests, in a bustling dining room of anticipation before a day on the river. I am not meeting my 5:00 a.m. fishing friend for a few hours on the river before work calls to both of us. I am not on a guided boat starting at 6:00 a.m. I am not returning from an all-nighter fishing with my Dad and brother on opening day, or taking a break between guest breakfasts for a quick run. I am not on the river I love, as mist rises, cool air and birds call to a new day of potential. I am in bed, wrestling. That mighty King Salmon wants, needs, and invites me to fish in different waters this July day.

The wild King Salmon fishery is a paradox. It is all about the fish. And it is not about the fish. This fishery is about abundance, flow, beauty, juicy living, complexity, adequacy, advocacy, and life, for starts. I am at home today because I don’t yet know if I could put a rod in the water although Alaska Fish and Game says I can, today, no bait, and yes, I can catch and keep a King. My question: Do I want to? Could I?

Without a doubt, every cell in my body longs to be on that river this morning–every morning–being present.

I am pretty positive I cannot fish for a King with the intention of catch and release. (More about that in days to come.) I don’t yet know if I personally could fish for a catch and keep King given what we think we know about the low return from the marine habitat where the Chinook have spent the past several years.

I do know that 4:22 a.m. wake-up call is taking me fishing into the inner terrain of what do I believe? The eggs of advocacy and life spawn in me. Something is coming ashore; the mighty and magical King wants to teach and speak to me. It is the appointed time for me to listen, to go on a hunt and discover what this is about.

Chinook fin 2012ps: About 5:00 a.m., memories of the Kings I’ve caught and kept, lost, and released flowed through me. Memories of people  and landscapes surge. I feel the urge to write. It’s how I make meaning of deep significance, translating intuition to thought,  hunches to awareness and action.

I’ll be blogging about these wild and mighty fish in coming days: What is the Chinook asking and revealing to me in 2013? Maybe my hunt will take me out on the water, as well. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for this wild and sturdy Alaskan landscape that cultivates life and choice.

What fishery awareness nips, bites, and rises in you?

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