At Zero Dark Thirty
By Mary Terra-Berns
It’s zero dark thirty when Becky Haag and I arrive at the dock in Hope, where the Bonner County Sheriff’s boat is waiting for us. We gather up our gear, grab our coffee, and head down the ramp, where the boat is tethered to the dock.
As we cross the dock, we scan the rough water of Lake Pend Oreille and shoot a not-as-bad-as-it-could-be look at each other. The lake can be dicey in the winter, but Marine Deputy Ron Raiha is one of the most experienced guys out here, so we know we’re in good hands. Nonetheless, I’m glad to see the survival suits within easy reach—water surface temperatures hover around the mid-forties in November.
Our destination this morning is the egg-take facility at Sullivan Springs, which is on Granite Creek, one of the many tributary streams that flow out of the Green Monarchs into Lake Pend Oreille. Kokanee, landlocked sockeye salmon, are congregating at the Granite Creek–Lake Pend Oreille confluence and are gradually moving upstream to spawn and die—the salmon circle of life. Our mission today is to collect eggs and milt from the kokanee that get waylaid at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) egg-take station, just a short distance upstream from the lake.