Fish & Feathers: How lucky can we get?

Thousands of rafting ducks on Willapa Bay enjoyed a sunny day last week. RON MALAST photo

PENINSULA - A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine, Don Ireland, and myself were discussing the places we had lived and the attributes of each. The conversation covered a wide range of locations including Fresno, New York, Hawaii, Tri-cities, Seattle, Newport Beach and Mexico. Then we started reflecting on the Long Beach Peninsula.

The Peninsula, being what it is, is unique because it is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Willapa Bay to the east and north and the Columbia River to the south - three very different bodies of water that foster many diverse aquatic and animal species.

The Pacific Ocean with its cooling breezes of summer and savage fury of winter storms with enormous breaking swells is a spectacle to behold. For those who choose, Dungeness crab, bottomfish, salmon, tuna and halibut provide many meals that people in less desirable locations can only dream about. For those who wish to observe, the migration of the gray whale, the flight of the albatross or the clarity of blue water are at your fingertips be it by power or sail.

The beach is home to thousands of seabirds, seagulls, eagles, osprey, Chinese ring-neck pheasant and black bears and deer that roam the length of the Peninsula. Not to speak of the many treasures of the sea, which are washed up daily and provide amusement for so many. Surf fishing for ocean perch offers a unique challenge, as do the rip tides that annually claim their toll.

Willapa Bay offers its own world this time of the year, with flocks of teal, widgeon and pintails rafting and feeding in the shallows, while strings of Canada geese circle looking for a field in which to feed. The blue herons sift the ponds and ditches for food while the coyotes wait for their chance to spring. We also have magnificent Long Island, with its towering stands of trees, herds of elk, solitary bears and ever-present deer. In addition, oysters, sturgeon, salmon and clams abound in their seasonal times.

The mighty Columbia River is a recreational magnet to boaters with its historical runs of salmon, sockeye, Chinook, chum and coho which all call it home. The steelhead, smelt, shad and sturgeon also flourish in these waters. The predators are abundant, the sea lions, seals, Caspian terns, porpoise, seagulls, eagles and pelicans capture their share of nature.

The Columbia Bar can be an efficient killer of boats and men at any given time. Known as the "graveyard of the Pacific," it can turn in a minute and prove dangerous for anyone, recreational or commercial boater alike. Its long documented history attests to its ferocity.

We are blessed to have the U.S. Coast Guard at Cape Disappointment as part of our community, whose members serve without hesitation on the darkest of nights.

I want to thank my longtime friend Butch Hacker for opening my eyes to the Long Beach Peninsula and its pristine way of life and to Don Ireland for reminding me what's all about.

How lucky can we get?

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