What the Salish Sea Means to Me

Chinook 'Tyee'


A tale of two photographs

Lets start with the photo of the two magnificent Chinook salmon. I do not know the exact weights but I would argue that each is a “Tyee” which is the honorific name given to catching a big salmon more than 30Ibs.  These were caught in the Salish Sea, close to Pender Harbour, at the entrance of Jervis Inlet, on the eastern shore of the Georgia Strait. It is one of the areas where big Chinook were at one time, easily caught.


The fishers in the photo, are my mother and father, taken in the early 1940’s before I was able to hold a fishing rod. According to family lore these fish were caught on a short trip before breakfast.  It was not uncommon to catch Chinook this size. I fished this place till the age of 10 years old, however I never caught a Tyee Chinook.  Perhaps I was lacking in that special skill, but I tend to put the responsibility at the feet of the forestry and mining industries, which have had major impacts on salmon habitat, in particular the habitat favored by Tyee Chinook.

Family fishing trips on the Strait of Georgia when I was a teen were a holiday routine. We mostly caught the smaller Coho salmon but always watched for the Chinooks.


Orcas were part of the adventures.  If they made an appearance we would go back to shore.  My mother wanted nothing to do with those “killer whales” as she called them.  Later on when my father tried his hand at commercial fishing, we watched the collapse of the Coho population in the Strait of Georgia. (Recently they’re showing signs of a comeback). Later, during the summer, I would take to the Washington Coastal waters from Westport, La Push, or Neah Bay.  Although I would catch “Columbia River” Chinook,  at no point did I catch a Tyee.

5th Generation
5th Generation - my great grandson

I think the time for catching Tyee has passed us by.  Instead, it’s important to look to the future.  The photo of the little one is my great grandson, Oliver who is a little older now,  a Fisher Boy who already loves boats, fishing rods, and all things about the Salish Sea. I know he will be a thoughtful advocate for bringing back wild Chinook to our river systems and my hope is that someday he’ll catch a Tyee in the waters around Jervis Inlet.