Monday, June 17, 2024

Thanks for the memories! May 2010-March 2020

Get the local dirt in our northwest corner • Regrowing in 2023!

Reefnet Festival celebrates fishing traditions, history

Aug 2nd, 2014 | Category: Community

by Cait Auer

On Saturday, Aug. 9, witness a centuries’ old salmon fishing tradition while embarking on a family fun-filled day of adventure, concerts, and activities, and feasting on fresh, locally caught fish at this year’s Lummi Island Reefnet Festival. Visitors can learn about the reefnetting process that runs deep within the Lummi culture, with proceeds benefitting the Lummi Island Foundation for Education, Beach Elementary School PTO, and Lummi Island Boys & Girls Club.

“We’re celebrating the ancient practice of reefnet fishing past and present, for the benefit of kids,” said Mike McKenzie, this year’s event manager. “There are only 11 reefnetters in the world and eight of them are in the bay of Lummi Island, so we think of ourselves as the reefnet capital of the world, because there aren’t many others.”

A lookout perches on a floating tower to observe a school of salmon swim over a net that is suspended between two boats, and then the fish are raised and placed in a live well. PHOTO BY DAVID HILLS

A lookout perches on a floating tower to observe a school of salmon swim over a net that is suspended between two boats, and then the fish are raised and placed in a live well. PHOTO BY DAVID HILLS

According to Sierra Montoya, also with the festival, there are eight Reefnet Gears that operate off of Lummi Island, with about 35-plus  crew members. The Lummi Island Wild Coop Fleet is four gears and Reefnet Fishers are the other four. All Reefnet fishers will be represented at the festival and have contributed to the event.

Generations ago, the Lummi Tribe used cedar canoes and cedar nets to catch salmon. This activity served as a diplomatic tie between tribal groups, and symbolized the sacred bond between creation, community, and sustainability.

“We’re sitting here on a peaceful day, the tide’s floating by, we’re listening to seagulls. We’re not there to chase the fish, they’re coming to us,” said Ian Kirouac, a reefnet fisherman since 2001. Local fishermen and fisherwomen take great care while utilizing modern fishing tools. A lookout perches on a floating tower to observe a school of salmon swim over a net that is suspended between two boats, and then the fish are raised and placed in a live well. Non-targeted species are immediately released and once the salmon are sorted over, they are bled and immediately iced.

“It’s wonderful to be involved in a sustainable fishery,” Kirouac continued. “We pick up the fish that we are keeping one-by-one, and they come out to our customers fresh and well treated. It’s a fantastic experience to be a reefnet fisherman, and once you try it you’re hooked for life.”

Festival attendees can watch via a large video screen showing fish swimming towards the nets, providing up-close views. Informative displays provide insight into the history, culture, and importance of reefnet fishing.

“We give boat rides out to the fishery and the most exciting thing is for people to see up close how they drop the nets and gather the fish, and see them in action,” Kirouac said. “The festival itself centers on education about the heritage and the legacy of the reefnet fishers.”

Fresh caught wild Pacific salmon will be available to eat, and a beer and wine garden is on site. Live entertainment includes music from Dave McAdams Band, Daddy Treetops & the Howlin’ Tomcats, Aranesa Turner, Bridge, and Nick Vigarino’s Meantown Blues. Kids activities include arts and crafts, and educational tales from Lummi storyteller Swil Kanim.

There will be no parking at the festival site, at Village Point Marina. A shuttle fan is available for visitors and will transport them from the Lummi Island ferry to the festival. Parking is available in various Island parking lots and visitors can take the shuttle from there. Shuttles will be running continuously all day and will come by the ferry and parking lots about every 20 minutes.

For more event information, visit www.lummiislandreefnetfestival.com.

Correction: The print version of this article included the wrong photo credit. Our apologies to David Hills. 

 

Published in the August 2014 issue of Grow Northwest

 

Leave a Comment