Okay, so in this age of informational overdose, you probably already have way too much stuff rattling inside in deep recesses of your brain and don’t need anything else jammed in there, but I’m going to load you up with a good dose of totally useless and random fish trivia anyway.
I guess “useless” may be a little strong of a word — you may be able to impress the ladies at cocktail party by busting out one of these little nuggets (highly unlikely) or perhaps at least make your fishing pals think you’re smart (didn’t work for me, but give ‘er a go anyway).
So, without further adieu, here are some things you may or may not already know…
Where did Cleo Go?
As kids, my buddies and I would get a hearty adolescent chuckle whenever somebody tied on a Little Cleo spoon. The image of the topless dancer engraved on the concaved side of the spoon was always good for a laugh…and perhaps even a few twinges deep in the loins!
My relationship with Cleo matured in the college years as we went from planter trout to salmon and steelhead. About the time I was hopelessly in love, Cleo disappeared from my life…
According to the fine folks at the Acme Tackle Co., the original Little Cleo was named by the lure’s creator, C.V. “Charlie” Clark in the 1950’s…after, you guessed it, an exotic dancer he supposedly saw in the 1930’s. As the story goes, Clark hoped that the seductive action of the spoon would be as intoxicating to fish as Cleo’s moves were to gentlemen.
Well, he was right. Little Cleo wiggled her way into the hearts of millions of anglers (and the mouths of even more fish) for 43 years until political correctness proved her downfall in 1996. That year, Acme received a complaint from a major national retailer that one of its female store employees was offended by the dancer’s image and insisted that Acme remove it from the lures. Well, you know the rest of the story – rather than lose the business, Acme stopped engraving Cleo’s likeness on their spoons.
Arrgh, that kind of stuff just kills me! If people would just mind their own business and maybe take things a little less seriously in this life, we’d all be better for it. And oh, by the way, when (rarely) I’m offended by something, I STOP LOOKING AT IT! Okay, there I feel better! Let’s move on…
Actually, before we do, there is some good news. If you go to Acme’s website, you can purchase some limited edition spoons with Cleo on them.
Would you know what it is if you caught one?
Okay, so say you’re fishing tidewater in the Japan Sea basin – maybe a river in Korea, Primorye, Japan, Sakhalin or Kamchatka. You catch a chrome salmon that’s about the size of a humpy. It’s got the kype of a coho, but the fish’s back is metallic blue with very few spots like, well, sockeye. Additionally, there’s something oddly “Chinooky” about its overall body shape.
If you were to catch this fish upriver, the ocean sheen would give way to a dark body with black spots along the back and horizontal crimson bars down the sides that look like they’d been swiped off a chum salmon and re-painted.
Is this fish some kind of crazy salmon hybrid? A mutant escapee from a net pen? Nah, just a critter we don’t see in our waters – let me formally introduce you to the cherry salmon (or sima or masu), Oncorhynchus masou.
Cherries get their name from the brilliant red bars and bellies that they develop during the spawn. They don’t reach king-like sizes, weighing 4 to 6 pounds on average with a maximum size of about 18 pounds, but they apparently put up a pretty good scrap and respond well to hardware.
Interestingly enough, there’s kind of a kokanee version of these things, too. The Taiwanese salmon or Formosan salmon is a landlocked subspecies of the ocean-going cherry. But before you ship your big North River with all the downriggers, noodle rods and cans of shoepeg corn overseas, you should know that the Formosan salmon is one of the rarest fish in the world. Like usual, over fishing and pollution have led to this critter’s demise.
And speaking of declining salmon populations…
Way ahead of his time
Livingston Stone was one of the early fish culturists in this country. He was one of the founders of the American Fisheries Society and believed strongly in preserving salmon populations on both coasts. Take a listen to what he had to say about West Coast salmon way back in 1892. Pretty sobering stuff…
“I will say from my personal experience that not only is every contrivance employed that
human ingenuity can devise to destroy the salmon of our west coast rivers, but more
surely destructive, more fatal than all is the slow but inexorable march of these
destroying agencies of human progress, before which the salmon must surely disappear
as did the buffalo of the plains and the Indian of California. The helpless salmon’s life
is gripped between these two forces – the murderous greed of the fisherman and the
white man’s advancing civilization – and what hope is there for the salmon in the end?”
Can I please go back in time?
If you could hop into your time machine (hopefully that doubles as a jet sled), you may want to turn back the clock to February 1800. Set the location dial for the upper Sacramento River in what will eventually be Northern California and be sure to have plenty of good eggs with you!
You see, the upper Sac and its tribs – the Pit and McCloud rivers (now blocked off by mammoth Shasta Dam) were once home to large populations of winter-run Chinook salmon. Yep, you heard that right – winter Chinook.
The winters usually got into the upper end of the river in January and February but would continue trickling into the system through May. They were hot, chrome little numbers that were steelhead-sized – and packed into some small, beautiful water.
How cool would it have been to go out and do a combo trip for winter steelies and kings?
Unfortunately, the winters were all but wiped out by Shasta Dam. There’s a hatchery (named after Livingston Stone, by the way) below the dam that’s dedicated to raising them, but the population is still very low.
Winter Chinook spawn from late April to early August…sounds funky doesn’t it? The good news is there were quite a few fish spawning in the river near Redding, CA this past summer.
What’s in a Name?
Before any white settlers came to the Pacific Northwest, the river we now know as the Columbia had an entirely different name. The Chinook Indians who lived on the river’s lower reaches referred to their lifeblood water as the Wimahl. Translation: The Big River.
Okay, maybe not a lot of creativity there, but darned accurate. I’m guessing when they spoke of the Wimahl, everybody knew which river was the Big One.
So, where did the modern day name come from? Well, one Captain Robert Gray can take responsibility for that one. He was the skipper of the sailing ship Columbia, which in1790, was the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. On a fur trading expedition in 1792, Capt. Gray sailed his ship up into a very large river and named it the Columbia.