Saturday, April 27, 2013

Aint Nothin O What It Used To Be

A guy stood by a pool a hundred yards downstream. He had a full grey beard, wore a dirty t-shirt and jeans and a worn baseball hat. He sipped on a beer while he looked into the water. I searched the pools closer to the falls. We were both looking for herring. “See any?” I called over the roar of the river. “Nope.” I could tell that he cared for this river very much, just like me. A few herring were here two weeks ago, and I hoped it was the start of a strong run for this river. I got distracted by a few other streams that were full of fish and have been snorkeling them for the past two weeks so I wasn’t able to see if this trickle of fish picked up into a good flow. It didn’t. This river used to host an amazing herring run, fish so thick they would bump into me as I watched their upriver procession. Last year I didn’t see any, so this year’s small run was improvement over last, but nowhere near where it was. Another river I snorkel regularly followed a similar pattern but a third had an incredibly abundant run this year. Regionally herring numbers have significantly declined in the mid-Atlantic over the last few decades. I am hopeful that the great runs will return, and as long as there are herring making their way upstream to spawn, there is promise. We watched the water in silence, and wanted to see the splash of a tail or the flash of a side. Any sign that the fish were running upstream. Nothing. It seems the small run I witnessed two weeks ago was it for this year. I felt disappointment, and significant concern. There were more fish here this year than last, but that’s not saying much. And once again I have to wait a year to see if the run will return. “It aint nothin o what it used to be.” My new friend said. “No it’s not.” I replied. “But hopefully they’ll come back.”

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