NWPR: Yakama Nation continues tradition with lamprey harvest

Northwest Public Radio reports on a lamprey harvest by members of the Yakama Nation:
Water pours off the top of Willamette Falls. Rod Begay reaches his hand inside the falls and plucks a 1.5-foot eel out of the water.

He tosses the Pacific lamprey into a soaking wet burlap sack. A dozen other eels squirm inside. Begay clings to the side of the falls, dripping from head to toe in his wetsuit. He and other member of the Yakama Nation will take the lamprey back to tribal elders. Begay estimates the tribal fishing team caught 500 of the toothy eels this morning.

Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission staffers take notes on the catches. Brian McIlraith studies the eels for CRITFC. He’s one of a few non-tribal members who have a license to help harvest lamprey, although he jokingly says on this day he’s dropped more than he’s caught.

“When you’re harvesting lamprey they are in the watery cracks and crevasses, and they kind of get formed in these watery pockets. You just have to go in there and grab them. Some of them are climbing up the rocks. Some of them are deep down underneath the water,” McIlraith says.

Get the Story:
How Pacific Lamprey Could Help Nourish Streams (Northwest Public Radio 7/29)

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