PAT NEAL’S WILDLIFE COLUMN: Next time you’re on the water, heeere kitty, kitty, kitty

LAST WEEK I got an announcement from PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, about a proposal for the next edition of the Merriam Webster Dictionary that would use “sea kittens” for the definition of fish.

Sea kitten not only sounds better than fish, it would rid modern speech of “speciesist” dialectic and give the barbaric sport of fishing a drastic image makeover that is long overdue.

The animal-rights group said that if fish were renamed sea kittens, humans would be less likely to hook and maim the animals for sport or imprison them in tanks.

Sea kittens are intelligent sensitive creatures that communicate and develop relationships with each other.

They show affection by gently rubbing against one another and even grieve when their companion dies.

Though the sea kitten’s brain is different than ours, it functions in the same way.

Sea kittens can complete complex mental tasks which would baffle pets like hamsters or dogs.

If you ever saw one of these critters eat a spinning herring with two big hooks hidden in it without getting hooked itself, you’d know that sea kittens can be a lot smarter than people, too.

Fishing, long considered an American pastime, is a euphemism for impaling and suffocating intelligent social animals.

As a professional fishing guide, I can tell you that many sea kittens have hit the deck in the writing of this column.

Hooking a sea kitten is cruel. I know that since I grabbed a big lure and accidently sank a laser-sharpened, Teflon-coated hook into each of my thumbs.

This effectively restricted my hands like a pair of handcuffs.

You can’t row the Sol Duc River in handcuffs.

The rapids were fast approaching. I gave the hooks a quick jerk. I was bleeding pretty good.

That’s good luck on a fishing trip. Fishing really is barbaric sport, if it’s done properly.

The sad fact is that people who attempt to impale and suffocate sea kittens are part of a cycle of abuse that they may have learned as children, while watching an otherwise responsible adult role model commit the behavior.

Many develop fishing problems later in life.

Fishing can lead to feelings of persecution and paranoia that the government is out to get you — particularly after your craft is boarded from the fleet of sheriff’s, Customs and immigration, Border Patrol, game warden and Coast Guard craft, all of whom claim to be looking for the same thing: safety equipment.

When not searching for your fishing license or producing your life jacket for the authorities, you try to read the fishing regulations. It only makes you feel stupid.

So you give up and catch a fish — I mean, a sea kitten — anyway.

Unfortunately, the sea kitten has an extra fin. You must turn the sea kitten loose, where it will be eaten by a seal or caught in a commercial net.

You are an intelligent social animal who can communicate with a series of low frequency grunts and perform complex mental tasks which would baffle your significant other.

You grieve when you lose a fish — I mean, sea kitten. Then you find yourself catching sea kittens all day without bringing a legal one home to eat.

That’s if you survive the Graveyard of the Pacific, with its wind and currents, waves and fog, where you carry the knowledge that if you go in the water, you will survive for about five minutes.

Then you will feed the fish.

Doesn’t “sea kitten” really sound better?

________

Pat Neal is an Olympic Peninsula fishing guide, humorist and author.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or e-mail at [email protected]

His column appears Wednesdays.

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