In Dillingham, silver salmon earns spot in history as the fish that spawned on the president’s shoe

After about a 10-minute drive, the motorcade arrived at Kanakanak Beach. Rain was still falling on this very gray day, and Obama was in a black rain jacket, black pants and black hiking boots.The pool arrived to find Obama at the water’s edge of the rocky beach, chatting with two local fisherwomen.

Obama met with fishermen (and fisherwomen) on Kananak Beach in Dillingham. He called Bristol Bay "one of the most important natural resources the United States has." Photo: Hannah Colton/KDLG.
Obama met with fishermen (and fisherwomen) on Kananak Beach in Dillingham. He called Bristol Bay “one of the most important natural resources the United States has.” Photo: Hannah Colton/KDLG.

“I’ve got to get some gloves so I can handle my fish,” Obama said. He donned orange rubber gloves and held up a large silver salmon for the press pool to see.

“I didn’t catch it,” Obama said. “I don’t want anyone to think I’m telling fish tales.”

The president handled several impressive fish as he continued his conversation with this fisherwomen. At one point, a fish started writhing, and Obama flinched.

“Uh-oh. What happened there?” Obama asked. “Did you see that?” The president told the pool that the fish was “spawning” and had gotten something on his shoe.

“Generally you don’t want fish spawning on your feet,” Obama said. “He said he was happy to see me.”

President Obama picked up a silver on the beach in Dillingham. Photo: Hannah Colton/KDLG.
President Obama picked up a silver on the beach in Dillingham. Photo: Hannah Colton/KDLG.

Obama walked partway up the beach and met more local fisherwomen and fishermen. They began explaining the process of fileting the fish. At one point, Obama called out to the Secret Service, asking “Do we have a knife here? Or did we leave them all at home?”

Apparently knives were not permitted for this presidential demonstration, so Obama moved on to sampling salmon jerky, which he declared was “really good.”

One fisherwoman gave Obama a jar — it was not clear whether it contained salmon jerky — and the president asked the Secret Service “to make sure this gets back with me. Allen, don’t eat it now,” he said to an agent.

Obama posed for photos with the group at a fish rack displaying fish that had been fileted. Throughout the visit, the president continued to ask the group questions about how they prepare the fish, dry the fish etc. He joked about his affinity for salmon cakes and proudly displayed a shipping box with salmon in it.

Obama made brief remarks to the pool. He lauded the importance of the work the local fishermen do and said the scale of the fish that come through here is remarkable.
“That’s part of the reason why it’s so critical that we make sure that we protect this incredible natural resource,” he said, adding that it’s not just for the people whose livelihood depends on it but for the entire country.

He said Bristol Bay is one of the most important natural resources the United States has.

“That’s one of the reasons we’ve shut off oil and gas exploration here,” he said. This line drew applause from the local group.
He said there are other threats to this environment that we’ve always got to be alert to as well.

As he wrapped up, Obama repeated that the fish jerky was “outstanding.”