COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE - Thousands of salmon are getting jammed into many small creeks and streams in our area, an abundance that may be too much of a temptation for some.
Game Officer Craig Gunderson sure wishes he did not have to babysit the salmon that swim in Herman Creek, but most days, he does not have a choice.
He says too many people are snagging salmon in the body or tail. As long as anglers put the salmon back, he will not issue a citation, but Gunderson is worried about fishermen's ethics, as well as the stress on the salmon.
"You look for the people who are setting the hook every cast, multiple times a cast," says Gunderson. "The intent there is just to hook a fish by any means, whether it's hooked fairly or not. It's just tough on fish to be dragged in by their side or their tail. These fish are stressed as it is on their long migration up to spawn."
It is a story that is being played out in streams and rivers across the Northwest where low, clear water is jamming hundreds of salmon fin to fin. It has gotten so bad that it has some wondering what has happened to the 'sports' in sportsmanship.
We have seen people snagging salmon before - on the Washougal, the Lewis and the Sandy Rivers. This year, it is Eagle Creek, a tributary of the Clackamas River.
The Coho salmon are stacked in the creek like cord wood in your backyard. Anglers say the water is low, clear and warm. The salmon rarely bite, which can lead some to get frustrated. Whether by accident or intent, snagging a salmon with a hook hurts the fish.
"It creates a real black eye for the legitimate sportsmen," says fisherman Brad Baker. "The non-fishing public gets the perception that this is what fishing is all about. They come down and see children with their dads who are snagging fish and they're littering and vandalizing."
Baker and his friends have handed out 500 'No Snagging' t-shirts that have hotlines listed on them to report fishing violations. They worry that angling abuse can mean more restrictions and even closures.
"When you bring your kid out here, you want to see adults acting like adults," says fisherman Mike Lindemood.
For information on how you can get a "No Snagging" t-shirt, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.