Tribal fishermen exercise treaty rights at second fall fish opener

Tribal fishermen exercise treaty rights at second fall fish opener

By Molly Bryant, Puyallup Tribal News

The Puyallup Tribe’s second fall fish opener of the year occurred on Aug. 20. Many Tribal fishermen gathered on the Puyallup River to fish for Chinook salmon.

The fishery was from 4 to 10 a.m. As the outcome of the Tribal Fishing Wars, the 1974 Boldt Decision restored the fishing rights to Tribal entities stating that they are entitled to half of the harvestable catch each year.

Chinook are the main salmon traversing the river at this time. Starting around mid-September, it will be Coho salmon season.

Taima Mitchell, a Hatchery Technician for the Puyallup Tribal Fisheries Department, played a pivotal role in the fish opener both as an employee and a fisherman. He said his job is mostly preparation work. He contributed by cleaning totes, which are the containers the salmon are transported in, getting ice, getting the nets prepped and loaded onto the boat, and assuring the trucks and boats are running.

Mitchell says he enjoys fish openers because he has the opportunity to be out on the river. “For me, it’s more than a job,” he said. “I’ve been a fisherman my whole life, ever since I was little.” He further explained, “I don’t necessarily need to be here at Fisheries, but I want to be here, and I love being here.”

The fish opener also serves as a great way for Tribal youth to get involved and learn about culture. Nicolas Earl Sr. works for the Puyallup Tribal Security at the Canoe Landing site. In addition, he serves as the Chairman of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians Fish Commission which sets the fishing regulations.

He learned how to fish from his father, Frank Chester Earl. On this opener, he taught his 19-year-old son Nicolas Earl Jr. how to fish. He said he was “trying to pass on tradition and let him fish on his own.”