Shooting Silver Salmon

by Peter Twitchell

On July 1957 I was walking along the Kuskokwim River just a half a mile upriver from the Old Airport across the river from Orutsararmiut of Bethel as the Moravian missionaries named it in the latter 1800s.

All of a sudden fish were shooting out of the river right in front of me as I faced the river. As far as I could see across the river to the mouth of the Steamboat Slough and the Straight Slough, and as far up as the sandbar across from Joe Pete’s fishcamp.

It was a sight to see as I stood there frozen in the morning sun.

After about 5 minutes when I came to my senses, I thought about Mom. I wanted to share this unusual sight with her.

With haste, I ran as fast as my legs would get me to her. I ran into the house so fast, Mom said, “Ca pia?” in Yup’ik. “What is it?”

I told her very excitedly, “Fish!! Lots of fish jumping out of the water!! Come see!!”

Mom did something I had not expected to see her do. She went and grabbed her 1909 Remington .22 Longrifle, and we rushed down to the river.

By now the Kuskokwim River looked as though it was boiling. There were hundreds of silver salmon shooting out of the river as I look back now and see the rerun of my photographic memory.

More boats were on the river now throwing in their nets. Then I looked at Mom, she was kneeling and she pumped a round into her rifle taking aim as she did when her and Grandma Hannah were muskrat hunting.

Somehow, in my mind it just didn’t look appropriate for the occasion!

My seven year old mind was saying, “My dad never shoots fish!” I asked Mom, “What are you doing?”

She said, “Neqcugtua.” “I want to get a fish.”

I’m sure the number of boats and people out on the river convinced her safety was more important and she never fired her gun.

When we got back home, she told me a story about shooting at a flock of geese flying way overhead one spring when her and Grandma and Gussie were out hunting muskrats.

She smiled, “I got one.”