Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Glamour of Fin Clipping

Its easy to see why people have trouble picturing Amy as the tomboy that she really is. She can glam it up with the best of them! Some have trouble believing she that loves to fly fish. She recently took a temporary job at the hatchery, not that she needs the money; she loves working with her hands, she loves fish and she likes getting dirty!

Fish Hatcheries raise Salmon (and some trout) from eggs and then they let them go as babies into the river. Those baby fish go out to sea for a couple of years and then return as adults. The hatcheries "mark" the babies by clipping off their adipose fin so that when those fish return they can be distinguished from wild fish (who weren't raised in hatchery). The hatchery fish (or marked fish) can be kept by those who catch them.


Here Come the Fish

So who "marks" these fish? And how is it done? Well, its not a very glamorous job! For two and half weeks, Amy and about a dozen other paid temps occupied a specially built trailer where they clipped the fins from hundreds of thousands of baby fish. It was during this time that she took these photos and videos (with the old Nikon, by the way).

The fish come sluicing into the trailer where they swim through a solution that anaesthetizes them, making them easier to handle and in theory they'll feel less pain when their adipose fin is clipped.

After the fluid they get on to the "table" where the fin-clippers have at them. Amy says that as the fins are clipped off, like fingernails, some of them go flying into your hair or on to your coat.

These particular fish are Coho if I remember right. The clipper scissors are specially made. One day she came home in one of my coats - it was covered in little black fins. Later I put it on before it had been washed and I freaked out when all these fins can falling off of me.


Amy clipping some fins

In the video immediate above, you can see the Glamorous Amy clipping the fins from a couple of Coho while wearing one of my shirts (hey!). She says the hardest part about the job is the all the standing. But she's excited to do it again the next time they need some serious fin clipping!

In 2013, if you catch a salmon out of a Washington river and its adipose fin is missing, you may have Amy to thank. And the missing fin from your fish could be one of the ones in my coat.

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