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Catch of the day

Bill McAfee of Clinton pours almost 42,000 coho salmon into the water at Possession Point Beach Monday. The fish that survive will return in August 2004, when they are expected to be 8-12 inches long and will weigh about 8 pounds. - Jennifer Conway
Bill McAfee of Clinton pours almost 42,000 coho salmon into the water at Possession Point Beach Monday. The fish that survive will return in August 2004, when they are expected to be 8-12 inches long and will weigh about 8 pounds.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

Bill McAfee was up to his thighs Monday in 6-inch coho salmon, and his boots only came up to his knees.

McAfee didn't mind getting a little wet to facilitate over 42,000 coho salmon -- also called silver salmon -- getting from pond to Puget Sound.

The salmon fry were delivered to the Possession Point Bait Co. on Jan. 21 from a hatchery in Gold Bar. The fish then grow in an aerated pond under the watchful eyes of Dan and Angie Cooper, owners of the company.

According to Angie Cooper, the Possession Point Bait Co. Coho Salmon Project is funded by the Stilly-Snohomish Task Force -- a public granting agency that funds fish recovery projects. The bait company works along with the Whidbey Island Puget Sound Anglers to raise them for approximately four months until they start "ringing," or swimming in circles.

Angie Cooper said when the fish start ringing the pond, it's their way of saying they are ready to leave.

Angler Russ Ramsey said there is no set schedule to release the fish, but typically it's in May around Mother's Day.

According to Ramsey, Monday's salmon release looked promising for 2004's fishing season, possibly the best he's seen in 10 years since the program has been running.

"We had very few dead fish," said Ramsey.

Ramsey said the fish were an excellent, bright color and were a good size -- averaging six inches in length.

The fish were then gently herded into a corner of the pond, and then traveled through a wide hose into Puget Sound. McAfee stood in the water to hold the hose for the fish as they poured out by the thousands per minute.

"This is just awesome," said McAfee.

Ramsey said the fish are identifiable because their adipose fins -- a small non-rayed fin near the tail of the fish -- were removed at the hatchery in Gold Bar. Ramsey said in the past salmon were marked with a small wire in the nose, but that practice had been discontinued.

Ramsey said the salmon will be from 8 to 12 inches long and approximately 7 to 8 pounds when caught in 2004.

According to Angie Cooper, the salmon use their instinctive homing device to find their way back to Possession Point in the summer of 2004. Cooper said she liked to release salmon near Mother's Day.

"I like to think of them as coming home," Cooper smiled.

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