PAT NEAL: How’s the fishing?

“HOW’S THE FISHING?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I wouldn’t be floundering in the mud-filled journalistic trenches as our nation’s only wilderness gossip columnist.

No, I would be jet-setting my way to where they actually had some fishing, South America. Thirty-some years ago, Chile took the eggs of our Washington state king salmon and turned them loose in two virgin rivers with no salmon.

The salmon thrived and spread to other rivers along 1,500 kilometers of coastline because, despite the fairy tale we are told here by the salmon mismanagers in Washington that salmon always return to the river where they were spawned, they actually stray to other rivers. That is how they repopulate rivers after natural disasters such as volcanoes. It happened in the Toutle River after the eruption of Mount St. Helens and to the rest of the Pacific Northwest after the last ice age.

Chile now has what is arguably the best king salmon fishing in the world.

Which begs the question: Why can’t we do that here and use our own native salmon brood stock to rebuild the runs of salmon in our rivers?

Follow the money.

Our salmon are worth more as an endangered species to the government agencies and their fellow travelers in environmental crime, the so-called “non-profit corporations” who make their fortunes off the massive slush fund known as the Salmon Restoration Industry.

They peddle a propaganda that the fish in each creek and river are a genetically-unique, threatened and/or endangered sub-species that cannot be compromised or enhanced through the introduction of spawning pairs of salmon or fertilized salmon eggs from other rivers into the barren spawning beds of our dead rivers.

Maintaining the myth that the fish in each river is genetically unique prevents responsible stewardship of the resource and endangers our salmon.

That’s because the more endangered our salmon become, the more money flows from the Endangered Species Act to the Salmon Restoration Industry. It is an industry with no cost-benefit analysis or oversight that would determine what, if any, benefit it has in restoring our salmon.

I can think of no finer example of this timeless observation than our own Dungeness River — where 30 years and millions of dollars of salmon restoration projects have only produced more threatened and/or endangered fish. But I digress.

How’s the fishing?

Right now, on our West End of the Olympic Peninsula rivers, the fishing is as good as it was in the good old days.

The salmon are running up out of tidewater in waves. And there’s absolutely no one out there fishing for them! It’s like a dream come true or an example of time travel except for one thing — the fishing season has been closed due to low water.

That came as a shock to almost no one after our river levels dropped lower than the lowest volume seen in the last 60 years of river monitoring. All of which begs the question I hear all of the time …

“When will the rivers come up?”

“When we get some rain.”

“When will that be?”

If I knew the answer to that question, a question that no one, not NOAA, NASA or the National Weather Service can answer with any reliability more than a couple of days in advance, would I be a humble fishing guide? Probably.

But seriously, the one thing we know for certain is that, eventually, it will rain. And when it does, chances are it will not stop until we are entirely sick of it.

Until then, enjoy the nice weather.


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

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