Bridge Costs BDC Big Time

For those locals that are aware of the closure of the 100-year-old Oregon City bridge that rests at our doorstep, you’re likely assuming it’s this bridge that’s impacted our bottom line. Thankfully, the Oregon City bridge closure has had zero impact… other than a longer commute.

Rather, it was the Interstate I-5 bridge that cost Team BDC dearly during the Spring Classic Salmon Tournament, one of the largest of the year. The BDC staff joined forces to fish the event with client Duckworth Boats. A carefully prepared strategy had us fishing on the lower Columbia River, precisely 36.5 miles from the official weigh-in station at Fisherman’s Marine in Delta Park.

At 5:30AM launch time it was 37 degrees, raining sideways and blowing about 15 mph. Thirty minutes into the day, hypothermia had nearly taken several team members. But the rods started folding, our first keeper was in the cooler, and things were starting to heat up. By noon, two salmon were on board, plus a summer steelhead, and a fourth wild salmon was released.

Reports from upriver confirmed very few fish were being caught and chances were good that our two fish could place us on the leader board.

The time calculation debate began in earnest. 10 minute to the dock. 8 minutes to load the boat and hit the road. 36.5 miles at 60 mph would take 36.5 minutes. A few minutes of cushion for traffic and most agreed 1-hour was plenty of time to be weighed in before the 3:30 cut off.

At 2:30, the rods came in. The boat raced to the dock and was on the trailer in 11 minutes flat. A few extra minutes consumed by the fish checker, and we were on the highway at 2:46.  20 miles out and still 30 minutes to spare. 10 miles out and 20 minutes to spare. 2 miles out and 15 minutes to spare. Oh Crap! What do those flashing lights mean? Why is everyone stopping? Why is a small section of that bridge being hoisted 80ft in the air? Why! Why! Why!

And there we sat, for fifteen of the most excruciating minutes of our lives, watching a grain barge sloth it’s way under the raised bridge and up the river. Nothing we could do. Nowhere we could go. Done deal.

We pulled into the weigh in station at 3:39, with the scales already disassembled and the tents coming down. Our pleading was in vain. The weigh master stated “No exceptions” no less than a dozen times.

As it turned out, we didn’t have the heart to officially weigh the fish. We didn’t want to know for certain… but we knew. We all knew. About 29-pounds, give or take two, which would have secured 2nd place and a prize purse of $348,000.  (Not really, but you’re probably falling asleep reading this story so I figured that would perk you up.) We would have been proud recipients of 3 nice trophies, and a bunch of rods, reels and tackle we really don’t need. But all we really cared about was the recognition from our peers that we can actually catch fish!

As we left the event, the bridge spires could be seen in the distance. A simple, one-finger gesture was cast in the direction and we went home, consolation prizes in hand: a pair of wool socks, a pink tackle box, and sample jar of sardine paste.

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