Friday, August 7, 2015

Herman the Sturgeon

"Follow me," he said.  "I've got a surprise for you."

And so I did, camera in hand, clicking along as I followed a trail of fish.  We were at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery on the Columbia River, and I was tired.  It was the end of the day.  All I wanted was a glass of wine and a plushy chair to sit in.
His little boy exuberance, however, prevented me from complaining.  I love the fact that after all these years traveling hither and yon, he is still not jaded.

Evidently, neither am I.
"Holy crap," I said when we reached our destination.  "That is one big motherf#@!!er."  I didn't mean to voice my astonishment out loud.  After all, there were children present.  I quickly apologized to the two mothers behind me.  They laughed.  "Don't worry.  It's not like they haven't heard it before."

My travel buddy laughed the hardest.  My response surpassed his hope and expectation.
There's a lot of different statistics concerning this big guy, (And he's not the first Herman.) but it's safe to say he is about 500 lbs. and around 70 years old.  He is 11 ft. long.  He and his buddies are among the largest fresh water fish in North America.  What's more amazing, is that they are descendants of prehistoric fish that lived 200 million years ago.
Herman has a pretty posh life here at the hatchery.  A big pond and fish tank to swim in.  All the food he could ever want.  An adoring public.  He's going to have a long, happy life.

But I'm afraid it's a different story for his peers on the outside.  Sturgeon poaching is on the rise.  Their population is shrinking so the cost of caviar is rising.  Large female sturgeon can carry up to 100 pounds of eggs.  Caviar is now as high as $200/ounce.  Black marketeers are doing the math.

Our day ended on both a happy and a sad note.  We went to one of my favorite restaurants in Hood River, but I couldn't bring myself to order the fish of the day.  I had that glass of wine, though, and my travel buddy had a beer.  We clinked our glasses.  "To Herman," we toasted.  Then vowed to never eat caviar again.


1 comment:

  1. I never liked caviar anyway. Japan has a food called mountain caviar, made from a plant. It has the texture and looks of caviar at least should you ever have a craving. Herman is awesome!