A salmon attacks a 12-year-old boy in Birch Bay on July 9, 1941.

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 4/10/2010
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9394
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On July 9, 1941, a 35-pound Chinook (king) salmon attacks a 12-year-old boy who is fishing for crabs in Birch Bay (Whatcom County).  The boy survives the encounter none the worse for wear, but the fish finds itself belly up on the barbeque.

Bold Gladiators

In the early 1940s Birch Bay, located in extreme northwestern Washington, was a popular resort destination, and fish and man in the bay were long since used to each other. So it was a real surprise on July 9, 1941, when a 12-year-old Lynden boy, Walter Richmond, suddenly found himself confronted by an angry king salmon in the waters of Birch Bay.  

Young Richmond was walking through the water just offshore, fishing for crabs, when he happened upon two large salmon, one a little larger than the other. He watched expectantly for the fish to swim away.  But the bigger one did not. Instead it made a mad rush at the lad, who dropped a sack of crabs he was holding and fought back with a potato fork which he had been using for crabbing.  The fish retreated -- but not far.  Likewise undeterred, Richmond stood his ground.

For a brief moment fish and boy warily eyed each other, two bold gladiators prepared to battle to the death.  Then the salmon charged again.  This time Richmond struck home with his multi-pronged dagger and dispatched his aquatic opponent.  The 35-pound fish was dragged ashore and ingloriously barbequed.   

Scrappy Salmon 

No one at Birch Bay could remember ever hearing of a salmon attacking a human. Some speculated that it was trying to protect a mate, but no one really knew what caused it to go off the deep end. Maybe the kid just really freaked the fish out.

And like all good fish tales, it grew bigger with each telling. By the time the Lynden Tribune reported the story on its front page the following week, the scrappy salmon was mistakenly reported to have been 35 feet long. 

Sources: “Boy Attacked By 35-Pound Salmon,” The Lynden Tribune, July 17, 1941, p. 1.

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