In Debt To The Fish

Your first Atlantic salmon to hand is a moment an angler will likely never forget. The first time you are able to combine the exhilaration of a screaming drag and a rod bent to the cork with the feeling of having your hand wrapped around the tail of that beautiful, acrobatic fish. Sensing the torpedo shaped, muscular body begin to revive, regaining any strength expelled during your game of tug-a-war throughout the pool. If you are lucky enough, your eyes connect with the fish, allowing a moment that seems to allow both reflection and mindfulness to converge into one sensation. Looking into those eyes, you may consider where the fish has been and what it has been through during its winter(s) spent at sea. As the movements of this chrome unicorn begin to ramp up, you are feeling more and more like you are holding back a sprinter awaiting the blast of a starting pistol. Now it is time... it is time to take in what may be one of the more incredible moments of the entire experience, as you are splashed by the kick of that tail, allowing you to watch the fish swim back into the depth of the pool and continue on its journey.

I find it intriguing to consider that these moments with these fish can provide us with so much excitement and appreciation, while even being a life changing experience for some. All the while, we may be nothing but an inconvenience of their journey. The equivalent of a flat tire on your way to work. Now, one may argue this is a pessimistic view I am expressing. However, I would suggest it is entirely the opposite. Atlantic salmon exhibit a level of resilience and dedication to their goal which is truly remarkable and inspiring. No matter the risk of predators, the inconvenience of being hooked to an angler’s line, or any other number of environmental issues, these fish stick to the goal of reproducing, reconditioning, and often beginning the cycle all over again. Offering us this incredible experience, while asking for nothing in return. 

This is where I think we as anglers can come to a fork in the road. Do we continue to have a one-sided relationship with the river, in which we are the only ones to benefit from the resource or do we make attempts to give back? Choosing the latter, may take many forms, depending on what suits you. We all vary in the resources we can provide, be them time, money, or others. So, whether you have ability to volunteer time doing river work with your local river association, donating to conservation-focused events and auctions, or simply adding your name to the list of members on some local wildlife or river associations, these actions can have a valuable cumulative impact on local fisheries. 

With these blog posts I have continually questioned myself and whether I am being authentic with the messages I give. Upon looking internally, I can acknowledge that for years I was taking from the resources of the river and offering little to nothing in return. Through interacting with friends who are involved in river associations and my father-in-law who leads a wildlife association, I began to recognize the difference that a group of committed individuals can make. After involving myself in some of these initiatives, I came to the realization that one resource I am often short on is time. Between having a young family and career, I have at times had to forgo taking part in things such as river work. It was after beginning this blog that I began to consider that maybe I could contribute in other ways, such as helping to spread the word of efforts of local organizations or even just being willing to discuss the topics that may be uncomfortable at times. So, I simply ask, if you are not taking steps to give back to the fishery, please consider some of the many options you may have. If you are involved in ongoing conservation efforts… thank you. 

- Kenzie Kozera (

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