PAT NEAL: April Fools’ fun with fisherman

And so, my favorite holiday, April Fools’ Day, passes astern. Here’s hoping yours was the best ever!

Over the years, who could forget the dreadful series of unfortunate April Fools’ jokes played on the hapless inmates of a remote fish camp located somewhere in a remote corner of the rainforest, back before the government outlawed fishing? Where the childish antics of a few ruined the pristine nature experience for many.

It was a mistake to choke down the borax-flavored pancakes smothered in pickled herring syrup. I tried washing them down with some hot coffee, surreptitiously seasoned with enough cayenne pepper to melt a railroad spike. It was at about that time I noticed that my boots were on fire.

What was an April Fools’ joke had just been upgraded to an act of environmental terrorism. I thought of my carbon footprint, and the effect of soapy pancakes on my delicate constitution, as I headed for the outhouse, where someone tossed in a seal bomb while I was desperately employing the facilities.

Like our other holidays, April Fools’ Day requires extensive preparations. To get ready for Christmas, we chop down a tree. To get ready for Easter, we boil and color eggs. April Fools’ Day can require more preparation and hassle than all those other holidays put together — if you fish.

That’s because a large part of the mirth, frivolity and mad-cap sense of the absurd is not performed by anonymous drunken fisherman, but by a government bureaucracy that we have no possibility of getting even with. This is due to the happy coincidence where April 1 is the day chosen by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to require a new fishing license.

You probably thought the state of Washington was run by a power-mad cabal of self-serving, pencil-pushing, pocket-lining functionaries whose only purpose is to make our lives miserable. You didn’t know that they also have a keen sense of humor, irony and revenge — but they do. Why else would they insist that we get our new fishing license and punch cards on April Fools’ Day?

It’s hoped that money from fishing license and punch card sales will provide vital funding for the latest scientific research that might someday allow the state to design a punch card the average angler can figure out.

Punch cards are little pieces of shiny paper that are to be filled out to record your catch of salmon, steelhead, crab and halibut. The punch card must be filled out in ink. Part of the difficulty of filling out the punch card in ink is that they are printed on paper that ink will not adhere to.

Just getting a frozen or wet pen to work often results in an ink blot on your punch card that resembles a Rorschach test. If you get your punch card wet, the ink washes off, leaving a blank piece of paper so you have no idea where to record your catch.

We are assured that someone in the government actually reads the punch cards, but how could they? It’s all part of the April Fools’ Day fun.

Getting a fishing license on April Fools’ Day is a really great prank, because the state does not come out with the fishing laws until July.

Last year, the fishing laws did not come out until August — on Friday the 13th.

Was that just a coincidence? I think not.

If you buy your fishing license on April 1, you won’t know if you can even use it until months later.

It’s the best April Fools’ Day joke ever.

_________

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

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected]

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