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  • Hector Amezcua /

    A salmon makes its way up the salmon ladder at Nimbus Hatchery in Rancho Cordova, signaling the start of the spawning season on the American River. Certain similarities can be seen between members of Congress and salmon, but the latter are photogenic.

  • Steve Wiegand is a Sacramento writer.

Op Image: There’s something awful fishy about our politicians

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 - 10:04 pm

This photo was taken by The Sacramento Bee’s Hector Amezcua, who even though I consider him a good friend, is still an excellent photographer. It depicts a salmon leaping up the fish ladder at the Nimbus Hatchery, on the lower American River.

With an impressive combination of lightning action and crisp clarity, it captures a moment in the life of a creature that is blindly following genetically imprinted instincts to accomplish its goal or die trying, and which, if successful, will die anyway.

It reminds me of Congress.

Now, you are probably thinking that there are few things members of Congress and salmon have in common, other than the obvious, such as similar morals, placement on the evolutionary scale, or aroma when they have been out of the water a bit too long. And I would concede that it is not a perfect comparison.

But consider the following:

• There are several kinds of salmon, and some kinds are, in turn, known by several different names. For instance, a chum salmon is also known as a dog salmon. They are the least commercially valuable. Sort of like a Southern Democrat. Then there is the chinook, or “king” salmon, so-called because it is the largest variety. Sort of like New Jersey governors.

• Just before starting their upriver swims, male salmon grow humps, canine teeth, and something called a kype, a curvature of the jaws. Before the next election, take a close look at your congressional representative.

• Salmon have suffered severe decline living independently in the wild, and as they die out are being replaced by salmon raised on farms. This results in a far less palatable fish. Theirs is a fate shared by moderate congressional members of both political parties.

• Salmon, particularly the aforementioned farm-raised kind, often play host to parasites such as sea lice. Common courtesy precludes any comparison here between lice and lobbyists.

The most telling parallel between the fish and the representative or senator, however, is in their primary purpose. Salmon are born to wander around the ocean for a few years, go back up a river and reproduce. Members of Congress are elected to wander around Washington for a few years, go back to their districts and get re-elected.

But as I mentioned earlier, it’s not a perfect comparison. Salmon make for good photos.

Read more articles by Steve Wiegand

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