On the Puget Sound, the Women Whose Lives—and Work—Revolve Around Salmon

On the Puget Sound, the Women Whose Lives—and Work—Revolve Around Salmon

[Editor’s note: There are a lot of varying opinions on word choice when it comes to describing people who fish, from the universal use of fishermen versus the alternative fisherwoman, to non-gendered options like fisher, fishing families, and fishing folk. The women we spoke to had a mix of preferences on word choice—as it seems, do their peers—which you’ll see reflected in the story below.]

In the city of Bellingham, Washington, everyone appreciates when the salmon operate occur fall. Shimmery silvers and chum salmon split the chilly water’s surface with their heads, as they go through the Puget Sound and tributary rivers to their spawning grounds. Locals buzz, telling a single a further when they’ve observed them, admiring the fish on their journey.

Deb Granger on the lookout for salmon on her reefnetting fishing boat

Courtesy Deborah Granger

Granger in her fishing equipment

Courtesy Deborah Granger

But for Ellie Kinley, this is not just a fall spectacle. She thinks about these fish 365 days a 12 months. Kinley is a third-generation professional fisher, and a member of Lummi Nation (the Lhaq’temish persons) whose ancestral lands contain Bellingham, Lummi Island, and the San Juan Islands. The Lummi are a person of many Coastal Salish groups in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada that describe themselves as “The Salmon People.” Their heritage, foodways, religion, and identification are innately tied to the fish.

“I always say there has not been a technology in my spouse and children that hasn’t fished,” claims Kinley, who began catching salmon with her father extra than two many years ago, at age 23. “We just went from currently being subsistence fishers to professional.”

Kinley is between lots of in the region who make on generations of salmon fishing, still working with techniques invented hundreds of years ago by Coastal Salish tribes. Reef-netting is one particular of the oldest internet fishing methods in the entire world what was the moment perfected with two canoes and a net hung involving them proceeds mostly unchanged right now on the Salish Sea, which involves the Puget Audio and nearby rivers (there are just much larger boats, plastic nets, and, at times, solar panels for ability).

A connection to the water just about feels unavoidable on this stretch of northwest Washington’s shoreline. Irrespective of whether you might be careening alongside the bluffs of the Chuckanut Scenic Freeway, or driving little by little past the historic brick structures of downtown Bellingham, the Puget Audio always looms to the west. There’s an abundance right here that you can really feel and not just in the fresh oysters and crabs staying hoisted ashore. Wildflowers are tangled on roadsides, and cloudy skies and rain showers (of which there are loads) coat the metropolis in a perpetual, nourishing dew. A limited ferry trip across the sound, lush islands like Lummi, Orcas, and Lopez poke out of the water. 

There is a robust and in some cases disregarded group of fishing families right here. The Lummi have the major tribal fishing fleet in the country, according to Kinley the port is also residence to fishing households, indigenous and non-native alike, who use Bellingham as their home foundation between fishing outings to Alaska and California. As a visitor, it is tricky to miss how seafood is talked about in dining places here, with an consciousness of the waters just about every morsel arrived from—yet Kinley states a lot of men and women exterior the fishing community do not understand there is a doing the job waterfront in Bellingham.

Ellie Kinley cooking salmon the Lummi way at Bellingham SeaFeast

Courtesy Deborah Granger

Kinley’s fishing boat, the F/V Salish Sea

Courtesy Ellie Kinley

Deb Granger is attempting to alter that. She operates as a reefnet fisherman in the similar waters as Kinley, along with her partner Pete whose family members has lived on Lummi Island considering the fact that 1888. When salmon period is in full swing and her crew hits the h2o, 73 yr-previous Granger’s role is to climb some 15 ft up a tower on their fishing boat as it bobs on the sea, scanning the h2o for a lash of fish. “Give ‘er hell!” she likes to shout, as a crew of 5 men and women beneath raise the nets, squirming with fish, out of the water.

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