"This was a rumrunner's heaven back during Prohibition," said Serafin. "We might pick up a case of that good old Canadian hooch." Across the river, the windows of the Hiram Walker distillery seemed to wink a flash of hope. The mayor shook his head dispiritedly. "I don't know," he said, "I'd rather we hooked up just one big fightin' mad chinook. Hook a chinook—that's my motto."
But it was not to be—not that day at any rate. One barely legal smallmouth bass took a trolled spoon nearly its own length during the morning—"What you'd call a tiny-mouth bass," the mayor quipped as it was returned to whence it came—and in the early afternoon, in the shallow waters where Lake St. Clair empties into the river, a muskie smacked a lure but was off in a flash. Not one of the 22 boats volunteered for the DRIFT expedition produced a salmon, though a few did hook smallmouths and the next day a 22-pound walleye was boated. "You know the river's clean if there's smallmouth in it," said Schneider, a bit defensively. "And the sonograph shows that there are salmon here. Not too many just yet, but they'll be here once she cools down a bit more." Perhaps far fewer, he admitted, than the stocking figures would indicate. Canadian commercial gill-netters, working the Lake Erie waters where the Detroit River fish plant has been growing to maturity, may have taken a heavy toll of the young fish. It was gill-netters, both American and Canadian, with their tough new nylon nets—coupled with the establishment of sea lampreys in the lake—who had decimated the native lake trout and whitefish population of the Great Lakes in the immediate post-World War II years. The lampreys are now under control, thanks in large part to a Michigan DNR program, but the commercial fishermen of Canada thus far have shown no inclination to reduce their predatory role. "Those are our fish," Schneider complained, "paid for with our tax dollars. Something's got to be done about it."
That evening Young hosted a feed for the frustrated anglers at Manoogian Mansion, the city's luxurious mayoral residence. For once that day, there were plenty of Great Lakes salmon available, both poached and smoked in the form of hors d'oeuvres. The mansion fronts on the river, and some of the guests strolled down to streamside before they left. The river rolled past, strong and clear under the sunset, with no oil slicks visible, no reeking flotsam to wreck the contented mood. A raft of mallard ducks paddled just offshore from the boathouse, squabbling among themselves. A huge lake steamer, her rusty plates boiling through the strong blue water, came downriver.
Just then, what looked remarkably like a salmon rolled and flagged its notched tail and disappeared beyond the mallards. A silver flash in the last light. That's a fishing stream, all right.