Are you kidding?  Goldfish in Idaho’s Salmon River? Well, not quite, but close.  A couple of miles, upriver of Riggins, is a place called Shorts Bar. It is a place where the river is mellow and has deposited a huge sand bar over the years,  that looks like something you would see in Hawaii.  This is part of the beauty of the free-flowing Salmon River – natural recruitment of sand each year all along the entire course of the 425 miles of river.

Many years ago, a large area parallel to the river and just upriver of the huge sand bar at Shorts Bar, was dredged out and made into a pond.  Water was pumped out of the main river into the new hole in the ground. It was used for storing logs, to be used later at the local saw mill.  The pond was also part of a gold mining operation, in those years of old.

Somewhere down the line, a person or persons, introduced some gold-fish into the pond. For generations these goldfish have been living in the pond for 60 years or so.  But, most amazing to me, is that I have been in the area for nearly half those 60 years, and have been going past this pond without ever knowing about the goldfish. (I didn’t go to school here, so not savvy to all the local insider’s  scuddle).

I have even used this pond for doing flip practice in dory boats and rafts.  Just in case we have an overturned boat during our whitewater season, it is always nice to be prepared for getting boats back to their right side up position, in a quick and safe fashion. Not that this happens very often (it doesn’t), but it is still best to be ready for even one tip-over.  Practice is the name of the game.

However, this winter, a friend began ice skating here and invited me to go, also telling me about his discovery of the gold-fish thing. (he didn’t go to school here either). But, when he found some skates for me, I took him up on his offer. Then he surprised me more with his scheme to actually catch one of these gold-fish to take pictures of. I guess he needed proof to other disbeliever’s??

A spaghetti strainer affixed to a ski pole with duct tape, like some sort of metalized butterfly net, turned him into an ice skating fish-hunter version of a lepidopterist. The gold-fish had grouped up in a shallow portion of the pond, where ice was thin, and easy for us to get close too. by team effort, we managed to catch one, for a quick picture on the ice and fast return back to  it’s home.

The group size was maybe 150 – 200 fish, ranging in body length of from 3 inches to a foot long. Most were around 4-5 inches in size. Luckily, none, that I know of, ever made it to the Salmon River, as there is no inlet or outlet to the pond.  Also, spring floods never get high enough to inundate the pond for potential escapism.

As far as I know, no other fish reside in the pond.  This is fortunate for  goldfish, because small mouth bass, which live in the Salmon RIver are highly carnivorous. While releasing exotics into native waters is against the law, the small mouth bass were introduced into the Salmon River.  Apparently, we humans stretch our value systems to accommodate things we like, and work at preventing those we don’t from entering our waterways and landscapes.

It would appear we are a bit of a schizophrenic culture.

Sorry, we don’t do gold fishing trips.
(because it’s hard to get a boat down a frozen river)

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
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