THE PAT NEAL COLUMN: A fishing law proposal

LATELY IT SEEMS like we have a lot of silly fishing laws that make absolutely no sense.

They are part of what fishermen call the “Fish Cop Employment Security Act.”

For example, the Stationary Gear Restriction (Page 24 of the Washington State Fishing Regulations) states that the line, weight, lure or bait must be moving (not stationary) while in the water.

This makes it illegal to get snagged up.

Anyone who claims they don’t get snagged up is either a liar or a fishing guide — or both.

Getting snagged up can have tragic consequences.

For example, we had a good run of coho out on the rivers this fall. That did not make them easy to catch.

Sometimes you had to throw a lot of different gear at the fish to get them to bite.

If you find the magic secret lure, the fish can’t resist. Naturally, you’ll want to buy more.

Typically, when you visit the tackle store to get more, they will already be gone because there are no secrets on the river. The competition has already bought out your “secret lure.” The rack will be empty.

This illustrates an enduring truth when buying fishing tackle. You want the lure that is not there.

Losing your last best secret lure to a stick or a rock at the bottom of the river is a traumatic experience. The emotional scars may never heal.

Now it is illegal.

Another silly rule that causes no end of trouble is the one that says you may not lift a bull trout out of the water.

The listing of the bull trout as a threatened or endangered species in the first place is what we call the “Fisheries Biologist Employment Security Act.”

The fact is, the bull trout on the North Olympic Peninsula are not threatened or endangered. On some days that is all we catch.

The biologists are famous for catching the bull trout, inserting radio transmitters in their bellies and tracking them up and down the rivers just for something to do.

The bull trout seem to survive this rough treatment, while a sport angler may not lift these same fish out of the water while releasing them.

I once saw a guy hook a bull trout that jumped out of the water and landed on a rock in the middle of the river.

I took a few photos. After all, photographs are a great way to share memories of a day on the river while you are in a federal prison.

With all of the silly fishing laws we have, I think we need one more.

We should be able to buy an extra license to fish two rods per person. This would increase the revenue to the state and improve our angling success.

We can already have a second rod on some lakes. We should extend the rule to the rivers.

The more lines you have in the water, the greater the chances they will tangle when you hook a fish.

There is nothing like the thrill of two or even three anglers playing the same fish.

The best part is, that same fish now counts as three since it wouldn’t be fair to say to one or the other angler that their fish doesn’t count, just because it was tangled up in someone else’s mess.

A fisherman’s ego can be as fragile as the most delicate ecosystem.

Catching fish is a numbers game. With a two-rod law and some creative fish math, anglers would be able to inflate their fish counts to something approximating the good old days.


Pat Neal is a North Olympic Peninsula fishing guide and humorist. His column appears every Wednesday.

Pat can be reached at 360-683-9867 or, or see his blog at

The “Pat Neal Wildlife Show” is on radio KSQM 91.5 FM ( at 9 a.m. Saturdays, repeated at 6 p.m. Tuesdays.

For those who want to see Pat in person, he’ll be signing his “WildLife” books, cards and CDs in Forks at Forks Outfitters, 950 S. Forks Ave., at 5 p.m. on Saturday and in Port Angeles at Jim’s Pharmacy, 424 E. Second St., at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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