PAT NEAL: No fishing problem that new laws won’t solve

WHO SAYS THERE’S no good news when every day, there are new and exciting things happening all around us?

If we could only take the time to appreciate the little things in life that are so ridiculous they almost seem funny, many years later.

I can think of no better example of this enduring principle than last week’s guide meeting in Forks, where our wise and gifted politicians and the courteous and competent co-managers of our iconic salmon and steelhead resources came together to solve the fisheries emergency and budget crisis, all with one mighty stroke of the pen.

It was a privilege and an honor to mingle with my fellow guides in an atmosphere of decorum and camaraderie enhanced with a phalanx of heavily armed, ruggedly handsome fish cops.

It brought tears to the eyes, remembering how I bailed some of the younger guides out of reform school and taught them to sign an X on their punch card in an attempt to pass our fishing heritage to another generation — some of whom took issue with the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decisions to plant all of the hatchery steelhead in Puget Sound in a rattler-infested lake in Eastern Washington with limited public access. Get over it.

They criticized the closing of the Snider Creek steelhead facility that used native brood stock to restore the native steelhead on the Sol Duc River.

Those fish were rumored to be genetically inferior to the extinct native species, and really, I never caught a Snider Creek steelhead over 27 pounds, so why would you want these fish in our rivers? Get over it.

They whined about the state closing the fishing season because of low water, then not opening the rivers when the high water hit. The guides did not understand that getting the co-managers to agree on anything is slower than bar oil in January. Deal with it.

The obvious solution to the fishing emergency and the budget crisis was to pass more laws.

The state lottery and the marijuana money was supposed to solve the budget crisis, but that went over like a pig in a punch bowl.

There are just too many snouts in the trough.

Fortunately, our legislators have come up with a more creative approach to bring home the bacon.

Currently, there is a bill being rushed through the state Legislature that would limit fishing guides on the Olympic Peninsula. It seems that once the rest of the state was shut down to steelhead fishing, people came here to fish for steelhead. Duh.

This new law, currently referred to as “The Pat Neal Removal Act,” nearly doubles the fee for a resident guide license while lowering the cost of a non-resident guide license.

Unfortunately, some of our local fishing guides don’t celebrate the principles of diversity and inclusion that would allow our streams to be declared rivers of refuge for non-resident guides.

If we could only find it in our hearts to understand how these fishing refugees from the devastated scablands of Oregon, Idaho and Montana have been forced to catch bass, pike and catfish to feed their fishing problem without hope of ever hooking the bull trout that we all take for granted.

These fishing foreigners came here seeking better fishing like our forefathers and forefathers before them. We should find it in our hearts to welcome the fishing refugees.

Meanwhile, the Pat Neal Removal Act should go a long way to level the playing field while solving the budget crisis. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River 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 [email protected]

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