Former Mercer Islander inducted into Wild Salmon Hall of Fame

Al Adams with a returning salmon at his Mercer Island home in 1986. - File Photo
Al Adams with a returning salmon at his Mercer Island home in 1986.
— image credit: File Photo

Environmental advocate and artist Al Adams was inducted into the Wild Salmon Hall of Fame on Sept. 11. The Hall of Fame award, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Salmon Center, is “to honor and celebrate people who have demonstrated, over time, actions that have inspired and which continue to guide a passion for the preservation and recovery of abundant and diverse wild salmon populations throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

That description fits Adams perfectly.

Over the years there have been many stories in the Reporter about Adams and his efforts to encourage and preserve native salmon runs here. For 35 years, he has reared and released hundreds of thousands of baby salmon.

Adams first established a salmon run at his Mercer Island home in 1974. At his home on the water’s edge on Brook Bay Road, he began hatching and raising salmon in a series of hand-dug ponds. He pumped water from the lake into the backyard, where a greenhouse had been converted into a hatchery. From there the water flowed under the house into an atrium, then on to the lake. The water ran between the two foundations that supported the family home. At first, the family was just interested in having any fish run through the stream. They had first tried goldfish, but they — the other fish that followed — were soon missing. Adams then turned to native salmon.

Each year after the fish made their way into the lake and beyond, Adams eagerly awaited their return. Some years no fish returned. Other years there was a bounty. Once, 154 coho returned.

Adams was continually learning and refining his hatchery. He built another system in 1982, when he set about raising steelhead and chinook.

Adams, an Eastside dentist, and his wife, Edee, raised four children at the Island property that they bought in 1970. The couple sold their home and left the Island in 1986 and moved to Hood Canal.

Adams, now 81, still lives in Belfair on Hood Canal where he continues to raise salmon. Adams says that he averaged about 49 salmon returned each year to his Island hatchery; the same amount that he now averages on Hood Canal. There have been some very lean years, however — which he blames on over-fishing nearby for chum salmon that have recently increased in value.

A gifted artist, he creates ancient-cedar carvings including totem poles and masks, and his work, “The Dance,” has been traditionally awarded to Wild Salmon Hall of Fame winners. He is a founding member of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group and the salmon center, and has donated his art to salmon restoration and recovery efforts.

Adams is still busy. He has since been active on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Regional Salmon Enhancement Advisory Board, the Lower Hood Canal Watershed Planning Commission, the Hood Canal Coordinating Council and the Washington State Ecological Committee.

Adams was chosen by a selection committee consisting of Congressman Norm Dicks; Bill Ruckelshaus, Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council Chair; Billy Frank Jr., Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chair; and Charles Corrarino, Conservation Program Manager, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

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