PAT NEAL: Fishing’s lean but bird-watching’s keen

The coho seem to be running strong just across that imaginary line that marks the boundary of the recreational paradise we call Canada — but not here, they say.

OF ALL THE outdoor activities in this recreational paradise we call the North Olympic Peninsula, bird-watching must be my favorite.

We’re fortunate that so many rare and colorful species of our feathered friends show up this time of year with the first storms of autumn.

While we may have lost our summer visitors — the nuthatches, swifts and nighthawks that have migrated to their winter homes — we have falcons, waterfowl and shorebirds fresh from the Arctic.

These birds are new in town and have never seen a human, so they are not afraid.

Bird-watching allows us to share in the thrill of the hunt in ways you never thought possible.

Eagles hunt geese in pairs.

One eagle flushes the geese to the other eagle.

There is nothing more picturesque than watching an eagle pluck the feathers from a goose carcass on a windy day.

Watching a falcon hunt ducks and shorebirds is an awesome display of natural grace that is almost too fast for the human eye.

That’s entertainment!

While it’s true that a previous wilderness gossip column stated fishing was my favorite outdoor activity, get a clue.

The biologists shut down recreational fishing in their fiefdoms because a forecast they made last year said there would be few coho in the Pacific Ocean, the Puget Sound and the rivers that drain from this vast region.

Fortunately, the coho are running strong just across that imaginary line that marks the boundary of the recreational paradise we call Canada.

This is one of the few countries on the planet that does not hate Americans.

Maybe they just like our money or feel sorry for us.

It doesn’t matter.

Americans and their money are welcome to fish in Canada, Oregon and even landlocked Idaho.

So don’t worry about not fishing in Washington.

If we can’t fish, the salmon returning to the fish hatcheries can be given to the food bank or sold for catfood, or we can sell the salmon eggs to someone like Chile, who wants to raise our salmon.

Chile has some of the best king salmon fishing in the world because we sold them the eggs and they put them to good use.

A recent article in the fishing magazine Salmon Trout Steelheader described Chile as a recreational paradise where the fishing is “like Alaska before the 1950s,” with king salmon up to 60 pounds.

Our own Great Lakes have tremendous salmon fishing since they planted salmon raised from salmon eggs taken from the Pacific Northwest.

You’d think the co-managers of Washington’s salmon fisheries could study the techniques employed by others to maintain our salmon runs, but here in the Evergreen State, our salmon are worth more as endangered species to the many grant-sucking bureaucracies that have mismanaged our fish with the same techniques used on the buffalo.

Until the corrupt mismanagement of our fisheries is replaced with rational policy decisions that benefit the poor suckers that purchase fishing licenses, we’ll have to search for alternatives to salmon fishing.

Just because we can’t catch the fish doesn’t mean we can’t watch them.

People watch birds, don’t they?

Watching fish can be just as exciting.

Right now, the fish-watching is at a fever pitch as the salmon pour upstream with the coming of the fall rains.

There’s nothing more exciting than watching a salmon throwing a rooster-tail like a hydroplane.

Unless that fish is on the end of your line.

Forget that. Fishing here is so last century.

When fishing is outlawed, only outlaws will fish.

That’s OK.

I’m moving to Chile.

_________

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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