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.
"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
"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.
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."