One name for the July Full Moon, which officially arrives for me at 5:39 pm today, is the Salmon Moon. There are no salmon in the water near me and I doubt that the name was used much around here for this Full Moon. But to some native people, such as the Haida people native of the Northwest, the Coast Salish people of the Canadian Pacific coast, and native people of Alaska, salmon was (and for some, still is) a staple food source.
The times when salmon “run” or are plentiful in numbers would be a time for much fishing, preserving, and celebration. A salmon run is a time when salmon, which have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of rivers where they spawn on gravel beds. After spawning, all Pacific salmon and most Atlantic salmon die, and the salmon life cycle starts over again.
An annual run is a major event for grizzly bears, bald eagles, and native and sport fishermen. But most salmon species migrate September through November, so why would this month be a “salmon moon?”
Fishing tribes in North America also used this name and called the August Full Moon the Sturgeon Moon because this large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water were most readily caught during this month.
The Druid’s Salmon Moon is in August.
Alaska’s Kenai River offers silvers, pinks, reds and king salmon from May through October. Salmon weighing up to 98 pounds have been captured. Early runs through June average around 16,000 fish. I will be further south but the late runs began July 1 and peak at 41,000 fish in the middle of the month.
Despite the variations, salmon has served as a source of wealth and trade and is part of the cultures of First Nations people of Canada. The practice of traditional fishing is strongly associated with Coast Salish culture. Salmon was seen as respected gift-bearing relatives. Their beliefs are that all living things were once people and salmon are viewed as beings similar to people but spiritually superior.
I will be taking a floatplane from Ketchikan, Alaska (“Salmon Capital of the World”) to Prince of Wales Island.
We will not be employing the traditional or artisanal fishing methods that are low-tech, such as net-fishing, stone-fishing and weir fishing.
The five species of Pacific salmon found in the Northeastern waters (rivers and ocean) are Sockeye, Pink, Chum, Coho, and Chinook.
Other July Full Moon names include the more common Buck Moon, Thunder Moon (for the month’s many summer storms) and Hay Moon (for the July hay harvest). The Celtic name was Moon of Claiming – for which I find no explanation.