PAT NEAL: New Year’s resolutions

THE BEST NEW Year’s resolution I ever heard belonged to the American author Louisa May Alcott. She was also a feminist, abolitionist and nurse who overcame a life of poverty, illness and discrimination by resolving to “take fate by the throat and shake a living out of her.”

This is a stark comparison to today’s most popular New Year’s resolutions — losing weight, making money and spending more time with family and friends. All of which are superior to my New Year’s resolutions, which include going to the dump, shoveling out the house, attaining a state of hibernation and getting better friends.

When making New Year’s resolutions, avoid unrealistic expectations.

The sooner you realize your expectations are unrealistic, the better.

Despite my best efforts, I can’t get better friends.

My chances of making it to the dump this year are roughly similar to winning the Nobel Prize for fishing.

As for shoveling out the house, I’ve never found a shovel that fit my hand. I’m not about to risk permanent hand injury that could jeopardize a promising career as a wilderness gossip columnist.

That leaves hibernation as a realistic goal for this year’s resolution.

Even if I was unable to achieve a true state of hibernation, like our iconic Olympic Marmots or members of Congress, at least it could go a long way to avoiding the worst month of the year, January.

Known for its bad weather, bad bill collectors and bad moods from sunlight deprivation, January is the month all the rabid chickens come home to roost. I’d just as soon skip it.

Even if I fail to attain a state of true hibernation, there are plenty of other New Year’s resolutions just waiting to be resolved. The best resolutions are the ones that help people.

I can think of no better way to achieve this lofty goal than to uncover the mysteries contained within the 150-odd pages of our Washington State fishing regulations. In addition to my other resolutions, this year’s New Year’s resolution will be to translate our fishing laws into English.

Also known as the Fish Cop Employment Security Handbook, Washington’s fishing regulations are so complicated that very few anglers can figure out what they say. Many anglers have given up fishing altogether, which is a tragedy since people who fish are the only ones that care about protecting, enhancing and restoring our fisheries.

The Hoh River is divided into seven different zones. Each with its own seasons, limits and gear restrictions. These zones are not on any map. Then there are the so-called emergency regulations that shut down the seasons when you least expect it. There are never any emergency fishing season openers when a bigger-than-expected run of fish comes in. If fishing is good, they’ll shut it down with another emergency regulation.

In his book “Game Warden Gone Rogue” (Amazon 2022), retired game warden Greg Haw exposed “the ambiguous, nonsensical and all too often unlawful regulations, as they pertain to the recreational hunting and fishing regulation pamphlets. Previous administrations at WDFW have admitted publicly that recreational regulations in their current form are too often unenforceable or ambiguous, and far too complex for the average angler/hunter to understand. Because of ‘strict liability’ associated with the game code, law-abiding people often find themselves in violation, all too often without any prerequisite intent on their part.”

This is from a man who spent 39 years enforcing fish and game laws.

It’s time to translate our fish and game laws into English. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.


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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