Defender of fish

  • Les Clark - Tracy Ston

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  Les Clark has fished the lower Columbia and Willapa Bay for 52 years. He is a third-generation gillnetter and his sons are the fourth.





Les Clark: "When we first moved here, paper mills dumped everything in the Columbia River. It finally got so bad you couldn't pull the net up out of the river because it would be plugged with pollution out of the paper mills. It would grow like jelly. Sometimes you'd get half a net in the boat, and it was like it was full of jellyfish. The boat was ready to sink. You'd have to cut the net in half.


"The day the fisherman is gone will be the worst day for the fish. Without the fishermen fighting for the fish, the rest of them won't give a darn. I know as a fisherman I'm dead, but I said those fish have always held me up, they've always been my way of life. I might not fish anymore, but I can still do something for those fish.


"We just had a three-day fishery. I did catch one salmon, so at least we're going to have fresh salmon to eat. By the time I gave some (to my family), it didn't last very long.


"We're supposed to be smart people on this planet, but I don't think we've been very smart in the way we've managed everything. Everybody thought there's no limit and we can abuse this bay forever. We're finding out there is a limit. It will only stand so much."


*R.M.