Fry in the Salt
Even though the title of this post might suggest otherwise, everyone’s arteries and blood pressure are safe for the duration of your reading experience. That’s because I’m not talking about french fries, sweet potato fries, or even steak fries. The fry I’m referring to are actually salmon fry (the baby fish variety, not a fried piece of salmon for all my Southern readers), and if you live in the Puget Sound area now is the time to venture out to your favorite salt-water beach to catch a glimpse of the schools of salmon fry exiting the local rivers and hovering in shallow water near the shore.
Last weekend I ventured out onto a few Puget Sound beaches to attempt to find some cutthroat feeding on this bounty of food after a long winter of slim-pickin’s. While I didn’t find any aggressively feeding fish, it certainly wasn’t because there weren’t any fry around. Every beach I went to had schools of fry cruising up and down the beach in impressive numbers. A few of the schools that passed by me were of such numbers that it looked like a large suitcase-sized shadow fluttering through the water.
Since I couldn’t find any fish actively feeding on this particular day, and I didn’t even see any signs of fish feeding as I scanned up and down the beaches in front of and behind me, I eventually turned my attention to merely observing these schools of fry. Even though the fry are no more than 2-3 inches long currently, watching all of this unfold actually made me feel small in the grand scheme of things. Here are fish that have already battled high water and currents in their native rivers, whose internal wiring have told them to begin a journey that takes them into the unknown, who have made the transition from breathing in fresh water to breathing in salt water, and whose only defense mechanism is beating the odds by remaining in large groups. They’ll battle predators of all shapes and sizes for the entirety of their lives, and at the end of their journey, the small handful of them that actually survive to become spawning adults will fend off death just long enough to give rise to the next generation of salmon.
In a lot of ways, salmon are the great givers of the aquatic world. If we humans let them exist in the way that nature intended them to exist, salmon provide for the health of their ecosystems at every stage of their lives. They fill the bellies of everything from eagles to seals to humans, and even in death they add irreplaceable nutrients to the rivers and forests they swim through. And here they were, swimming only a few feet from me, in their earliest salt water stage. Standing in the midst of that was standing in the midst of something much more powerful than I, or that we, will ever be. Being humbled by a few dozen 2 inch fish: that’s why I love being out in nature.