PAT NEAL: One more letter from the mail bag

THANKS FOR READING this. If you didn’t read this, no one would, but you do. I can tell from all of the wonderful cards and letters you send.

Recently, I got a letter from Dr. James Unsworth Ph.D., director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. He described a new bill just passed by our hard-working state Legislature that’s a “positive step toward helping WDFW effectively partner with our stakeholders to achieve our common goals.”

I’m not sure what a stakeholder is. Maybe they hold the stake while someone else pounds it through my bleeding black heart.

The common goal seems to be the elimination of sport fishing in Washington. Why else would the WDFW recently rubber-stamp a permit for Cooke Aquaculture to put 1 million Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound net pens?

These are the same folks who just lost 305,000 Atlantics out of their antiquated net pen and blamed it on the eclipse.

A WDFW press release stated they had no authority to deny a permit to plant Atlantic salmon, but let’s just see you try to move a million Pacific salmon into Puget Sound. That, the state will not allow.

In addition, the new bill known as the “Fisherman Removal Act” raises the price of a resident fishing guide license while lowering the price of a non-resident guide license. Perhaps it was the realization that out-of-state fishing guides have made such an effort to get here and not catch anything that we should reward their effort with a discounted license fee.

Apparently, Washington state fishing guides are the only demographic it is politically correct to stereotype, profile and discriminate against.

Fishing guides are an integral part of the ecosystem. It is up to us to explain the complex fishing laws, if possible.

Over the years, the fishing laws have gotten so complicated, many people have just quit fishing because almost no one can figure them out.

Fishing violations are serious. The court report in last week’s Forks Forum had a guy doing five days in jail for a fishing violation, while another guy got only one day in jail for negligent driving.

Momma told me when I was young she wouldn’t visit me in prison, so I have always tried hard to stay out. Just knowing there will be no cake with a hacksaw blade in it has kept me out of trouble so far.

But with fishing regulations, you never know. For example, in some streams, you are required to retain any hatchery steelhead you catch. Hatchery steelhead can be a quality fish that is just as good as a native if they are fresh out of the ocean. The meat is moist and pink, the flavor delicate and buttery.

A spawned-out hatchery fish can be a repulsive critter with open sores, leeches and colorless, white meat that tastes fishy. Native Americans traditionally harvested spawned-out steelhead and coho or silver salmon. Because there was no fat in them, spawn-outs would keep for a long time without spoiling.

The dried fish would then be eaten with whale or seal oil, which these days would be a federal violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

What should you do if you accidentally catch a hatchery steelhead? Page 14 of the fishing laws says it’s against the law to “intentionally waste fish.” You may only use fish for human consumption or bait.

Unfortunately, bait is illegal in many waters, so you will probably have to eat that spawn-out, according to the current fishing laws.

Bon appetit, and keep those cards and letters coming.

_________

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 [email protected]

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