PAT NEAL: Another round of stupefying rules

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news: The 2017 Washington state fishing rules were finally printed.

I know what you’re thinking.

Hasn’t it been over six months since 2017 began?

Here in Washington, they make you buy your new fishing license April 1 and don’t tell you the fishing rules until June.

It’s no coincidence.

It seems like the state prefers to keep us in the dark about the fishing rules for as long as possible so that as many people as possible will buy a license before they find out they can’t go fishing.

The manner in which our fishing rules are determined seems like a crime with no witnesses, since the secret negotiations between the state and the Treaty Tribes of Washington are carried out behind closed doors with no public participation other than our opportunity to foot the bill.

This year’s fishing rules are a mixed bag of unfathomable regulations and nonsensical rules that defy a logical thought process.

Peninsula Daily News outdoors columnist Michael Carman’s excellent June 16-17 column, “Sekiu Bearing Brunt Again,” describes the devastation loosed on our coastal communities by an authoritarian regime that simply will not listen to the people they are supposed to serve.

The Hoh River offers another blatant example of rules that make absolutely no sense.

The Hoh opens July 1, but we are not allowed to keep hatchery-raised salmon, indicated by a clipped adipose fin.

Despite a petition signed by a thousand people to allow us to keep the hatchery fish that we paid for with our fishing licenses, the state has decided to deny us these fish just because they can.

The only good news in the fishing rules is that they didn’t raise the fishing license fees.

No doubt this is because of the outrage of license buyers who feel they are being cheated by a bureaucracy that does not serve the people who pay their wages and retirement and benefit packages.

Fishing opportunities in Washington have been reduced to the point where people would rather go anywhere else to fish — like just across the imaginary line in the middle of the Strait of Juan de Fuca where our Canadian friends welcome anglers with open arms.

It seems Canadians figured out that fishing seasons are an important part of their economy.

Undeterred, our state has invented a new revenue stream with no corresponding increase in fishing opportunities.

They print the fishing licenses with ink that washes off when exposed to moisture.

While it is true that most of the fishing on the North Olympic Peninsula is done on barstools or at the day job where the-one-that-got-away fish fables flow freely, much of the local angling effort is conducted on or near the water, where it is possible or even likely that the swimsuit region of the angler, which would most likely contain the license and punch cards that we all must carry, will be exposed to water.

This is my story.

I caught a fish.

That’s when the trouble started.

When I tried to immediately record the hatchery salmon as indicated by the clipped adipose fin on my punch card as soon as it was in my legal possession, I discovered the ink on the punch card and fishing license had washed off, leaving me with blank pieces of paper.

A friendly fish cop suggested I get a new license and punch card, advice with which I was only too happy to comply at the earliest possible opportunity.

The replacement fishing license and punch card cost $21.80.

Good luck and keep your license dry.


Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal

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