PAT NEAL: Setting salmon seasons

WHO SAYS THERE is no good news anymore?

A March 14 article in the Peninsula Daily News sports section reported that the coho salmon quota could be nearly four times larger than it was last year.

The news sent shock waves across Washington state.

Once considered the “salmon fishing capitol of the world,” lately our fair state has languished into a salmon famine which, like most famines, is political in nature.

It began with the listing of the bull trout, a voracious predator of salmon, as a threatened or endangered species.

This caused many questions to be asked such as, “If bull trout are endangered how come that’s all we catch?”

There are no easy answers to that question.

Salmon management in Washington can be compared to a chicken farmer who also raises racoons, coyotes and skunks in his chicken house with predictable results.

Protecting the predators of the salmon — the seals, sea lions and birds — has been a hallmark of salmon management in Washington with similar results.

Coincidentally, since the protection of the bull trout back in the 1990s the salmon restoration industry has spent $1 billion on salmon recovery without one actual salmon run being recovered.

That is according to the governor’s 2018 State of the Salmon Report.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has fished here for very long.

Salmon run forecasts are a seasonal event not unlike Groundhog Day where the biologists, I mean the groundhogs, come out of hibernation to predict the weather.

Like the groundhog’s weather prediction, the biologists’ fish run predictions are invariably wrong.

Never mind that these erroneous fish forecasts are a vital tool in another broken management scheme, the North of Falcon meetings where the tribal, commercial and sportfishing abuser groups get together in top-secret to do their best to outlaw the other guy’s fishery.

The salmon catch quotas dreamed up at this meeting are used for an excuse to create that other nightmare, the Washington state fishing laws.

Having spent years trying to translate the fishing laws into English, I can only suggest that if you cannot afford an attorney to figure out the fishing laws then you probably can’t afford to go fishing.

These laws represent a morass of bureaucratic red tape and hidden agendas among the Department of Commerce, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the Pacific Salmon Commission, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington and Oregon departments of Fish and Wildlife and the 21 Treaty Tribes of Western Washington.

They’re supposed to manage our fish under the terms of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Boldt Decision and the Endangered Species Act.

And now they want the public’s input.

The public will be offered a rare opportunity to try to make sense out of the crazy world of fishing in Washington at the Puget Sound Anglers meeting in Sequim on Thursday at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Biologists from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife will be available for questions.

Fisheries biologists possess superhuman powers that make them able to shut down entire fisheries with just a single stroke on the computer.

Unfortunately, something must have gone horribly wrong with their careers to get sent to the Olympic Peninsula to be dangled like live bait in front of a crowd of outraged anglers who believe our fishing rights are being eliminated.

Think of it as democracy inaction.

It should be fun. See you there.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River 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