Getting Crafty for Salmon

Crafts don’t come naturally to me.

To be honest, even Play-Doh is painful … anything that requires considerable cutting or gluing, forget about it.

Thank heaven for teachers, daycare workers and grandmas that can sit there for hours with kids to make a toddler masterpiece.

It’s not a question of patience, as I can untangle 35 successive cast fishing with my boys.

There is one exception to my craft avoidance: the Yukon Salmon Committee holds a children’s art contest with a different salmon-related theme each year.

This year, the kids were challenged to envision a Yukon without salmon. While a rather bleak topic, it is also timely, given the dismal salmon runs of years past.

I have entered the contest on two previous occasions, always assisting one of my son’s classes. This year, rather than leave one out, I would glue, cut, colour and crop with both of them.

It started as virtually every craft does, with a trip to The Dollar Store. It should really be called the Twenty Dollar Store, as it’s impossible to leave without spending less than 20 bucks.

After a morning of artistic visioning over a mouthful of Timbits and some hot chocolate, they decided to present two Yukon Rivers, one with salmon and one without salmon.

We spoke a great deal about decomposition and the fact that the nutrients from salmon are an essential part of the natural environment.

We talk about how there is a natural cycle and the food chain related to salmon.

When in Haines, stepping alongside the stinking, rotting salmon carcasses on the Chilkoot River, I encourage them to also notice the towering trees and plush foliage. They quickly grasped this and added that a river with salmon has birds, frogs, bugs, weeds, salmon eggs and a bunch of other living things.

The river without salmon was basically dead.

This was all the inspiration we needed as we piled the supplies into our basket.

At home they diligently worked together for hours crafting up their submission. In a last-minute frenzy of activity, my six-year-old wanted to add a net to the river with salmon (a brilliant thought, knowing that Yukon salmon are an important part of the First Nation, commercial and recreational fishery).

I was struck by the convergence of creativity and conservation and the fact that salmon ties Yukoners together. While my family does not set nets, nor have a fish camp, we value and have a connection to them in our own special way.

I still don’t like crafts, but I’ll force myself to facilitate it at least once a year in the interest of Yukon salmon.

If you would like to share your fishing story, or hear more about this one, visit Dennis Zimmermann’s Yukon fishing blog at


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