Monday, December 12, 2011

Why Steelhead don't die when they spawn

One of the most common questions new Steelheaders ask me is why they do not die like other anadromous fish after they spawn, Ive heard alot of different opinions on this subject.. but this Salish Legend has always been my favorite explanation. Enjoy-

Many Steelhead survive spawning, and here is why; One winter when the Salish people were starving, Raven searched for help, and came across salmon woman and her children, Sockeye, Chum, King, Humpy, Coho and Steelhead. Salmon woman married Raven and gave her children to the Salish so they would not starve to death.

In time, and becouse salmon were abundant, The people forgot what it was like to be hungry. After the Salish began to abuse the salmon, the salmon woman reclaimed her children and fled with them to the longhouse of her father the Salmon Chief under the ocean. She vowed never to return and starvation soon returned to the people.

But Raven begged his wife to forgive the people and return to them with her children. She did, but not without changing her childrens lifecycle to teach the Salish a lesson.

Before, the salmon lived year-round, at the mouth of the river, near the Salish village. But Salmon Woman changed it so that the salmon would spawn upriver, then return to live in the ocean, and not return to the Salish untill spawning season.

The people also were ordered never to go up river to harvest the salmon. They could only take the salmon during the harvesting moons.

However, the message did not reach everyone, especially Bear- the brother of Raven. During a year that Bears wife was pregnant, Raven did all the hunting and fishing for Bears familybecouse a woman pregnant with the gift of life was powerful and treasured.

During this time, Bear became restless. He went up river and began to harvest salmon. Each species he touched died off and floated down stream. Worried about starving, the Salish called Raven to come find his brother. Raven knew that Bear was up river in the salmon spawning beds and Raven quickly raced to stop his brother. But on arrival, Bear had touched every species of salmon exept the steelhead.

So, unlike other salmon, steelhead can survive the full life cycle while other salmon return to spawn and then die in the spawning beds-


  1. Nothing like good Native American lore to answer a looming question.


  2. Seems to me that there's always a wee bit of truth in lore. Very interesting post. Thanks!