50,000 fish are on their way

It was 50,000 against two, so Dan and Angie Cooper let them have their way.

On Monday the Coopers gently moved approximately 50,000 coho salmon from their saltwater pond to the nearby waters of Puget Sound. At their Clinton-based Possession Point Bait Co., the release has been a successful 12-year tradition.

The cohos — also known as silver salmon — began ringing and crowding the sides of their pond last weekend, which told the Coopers they were ready to leave.

“That’s how they let you know they want out,” Dan Cooper said.

Of the 50,000 salmon delivered in January from a hatchery in Gold Bar, the Coopers expect about 4,000 to make their way back to Whidbey Island as adult fish in the late summer of 2005.

The Possession Point Bait Co. Coho Salmon Project is funded by the Stilly-Snohomish Task Force, who funds fish recovery projects like the Coopers’. They grow for about three months in the aerated saltwater pond, eating almost two buckets of tiny fish food pellets a day. The Stilly-Snohomish Task Force funds things like the salmon’s feed and the power to keep the aerator moving the water, which keep the salmon healthy until their release day.

By this week, they had grown to an average of about 8 inches in length and were one of the best groups of salmon the project has seen yet. Minus one or two that died, and the few that were flown away by sneaky kingfishers, most will return to the area to be caught by anglers in a year and a half.

“I think we’ll have a real good return on that one,” he said.

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