Watching the Eagles Fish the Eulachon on the Skeena River

It was a nice day for a drive, as we almost went to Prince Rupert, BC, but we stopped short to where the Eulachon fish were gathering in the Skeena River as they laid their eggs and die. They were not hard to spot where they were, as all you had to do was find the thousands of seagulls and the fifty or so Bald Headed Eagles scooping them up to eat along the shores, and on the floating chunks of ice. Also, there were lots of people there too, both taking photos, and some catching them for their dinner. It was quite the sight to see. And for the record, I saw only one Eulachon, but it was in a Seagull’s beak, twenty metres away up in the air. But I have seen a lot when I was kid. For the birders, you would have been in awe at the numbers of Seagulls and Eagles there were.

After today, I realized I need at least a 500mm lens, or greater. The Eagles were smart; this was as close as I could get with a 300mm telephoto. Every move I made, it stared at me with those eagle eyes.

Anyway, you are not going to find anything about the Eulachon fish on any sports fishing guide website. The little fish hardly has any commercial value what so ever. However, these are a food fish for the local aboriginal peoples. I have heard them referred to as Candle Fish, or Salvation Fish, becuase of the time of year you catch them in the river, and the oils the little fish makes. Yes, I have seen people light them on fire, and they burn like a candle at the tail. But you can make what is called Eulachon Grease from them, and store it for later on in the year. Harvesting is done in Late February and March, at the end of winter. After a long winter, these little fish will keep a whole village going until full on spring.

I would say that there was about thirty cars parked along the Prince Rupert – Terrace highway, or Highway 16. The little fish only swim a short ways up the Skeena, close to where the tidal water ends, so it was fair ways from Terrace, about fifty kilometres to see this. I am not sure how long this will last, but it was a feast for the birds! Maybe nest time I will have a stronger telephoto lens for my camera.

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