“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” 
― John Donne

Fishing the Grand Rapids

Fishing the Grand Rapids

 Fishermen cast their lines near the base of the water pouring over the dam, where fish gather to prepare themselves to attempt a jump.

Fishermen cast their lines near the base of the water pouring over the dam, where fish gather to prepare themselves to attempt a jump.

Ever since the Sixth Street dam was built more than a century ago to flood the rapids upstream and help transport logs to Grand Rapids, it has created a hotbed of fish activity below it for local fishermen. In Autumn, when the coho and king salmon run, and the rainbow trout shortly thereafter, fishermen flock to the river below the dam to pull out what fish they can catch.

Lola Le has been coming to the dam for more than 20 years to fish. This morning he waded into the river from the west bank, Fish Ladder Park, but he returned to shore empty handed.

“The water is too low and hot,” he said, an opinion supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ weekly fishing report. Le thinks the king salmon might run again, particularly if there’s rain soon.

 Logs and other refuse are regularly seen stuck on top the dam, or tossing and spinning in the whitewater below.

Logs and other refuse are regularly seen stuck on top the dam, or tossing and spinning in the whitewater below.

Mike Brewer, who’s been fishing in Michigan for more than ten years, came to the fish ladder looking for unlaid salmon spawn to use as bait for trout fishing on the shore of Lake Michigan. The fishermen in the river will sometimes give him the eggs after cleaning them out of their catch. He didn’t have any more luck than Le, with the few fishermen there not catching anything to clean.

“It’s been an early year,” he said. “You should of been here two weeks ago.”

Two weeks ago, Brewer said, the coho salmon were active, and he saw as many as 30 fish caught in an hour. Now all that can be seen are some large carp swimming at the bottom of the fish ladder, ignored by the fishermen because they're generally considered to be unsuited for eating.

When the fish ladder was built in 1974, it turned the west end of the dam into a park and local attraction for families and couples to come and watch the fish jump, step by step, from the lower river to their traditional spawning grounds upstream.

With Grand Rapids Whitewater’s plan to restore the rapids to the downtown area, the Sixth Street dam may not be left in the river for much longer, something Brewer isn’t excited about.

“It would be the end of fishing in Grand Rapids,” he said.

Era of Change

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