PAT NEAL: Sympathy for the Fish Cop

Thank you for reading this. You send the most interesting letters.

One of the best came as a response to my explanation of how our fishing laws are made — how our biologists emerge from their burrows beneath the State Capitol, where they have spent the winter hibernating.

If they see their shadows, they come up with another fishing law.

Favorites include the “Stationary Gear Restriction,” which says, “the line, weight, lure or bait must be moving while in the water.”

This makes it illegal to get snagged on the bottom.

The definition of wild Steelhead claims they have unclipped adipose or ventral fins, but tribal hatcheries clip the dorsal fin.

We are told in one section of the fishing laws we can use up to three hooks on a floating lure then told in another we can only use one single-point, barbless hook.

Who knew it was illegal to fish for jack salmon or steelhead after you caught your limit of adult salmon?

It’s illegal to keep a green crab. These invasive species could devastate our Dungeness crab and clam populations, but we must release them!

Our fishing laws are so confusing, no two anglers can agree on what they say.

It was wrong to call our fishing laws the “Fish Cop Employment Security Act.”

I know that now after being contacted by a retired fish cop who revealed that Washington’s whacko fishing laws victimize both the public and the officers entrusted with enforcing them.

Greg Haw started his 39-year career enforcing fish and wildlife regulations in 1985 in Forks.

As a young officer, Haw was obsessed, in his own words, with catching salmon snaggers and poachers while working 12-hour days, seven days a week. He thought he was making a difference.

His father, Frank Haw, was a fisheries biologist with 75 years of fishing experience who worked to improve recreational fishing opportunities back when the number of salmon anglers equaled the combined yearly attendance of Seattle’s three major league teams — when Washington’s recreational salmon anglers caught more than the sport salmon catches of California, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska combined.

This was accomplished by using fish hatcheries like the one at the Dungeness River, where in 1961, for example, 1,283,000 spring Chinook, 1,062,000 fall Chinook and 2,500,000 Coho salmon were hatched and released to migrate north and return, feeding a fishing industry and the orca on the way.

Upon retiring from fisheries enforcement, Haw entered a period of bleak depression.

He wondered if, after dedicating 39 years of his life working to protect the natural resources of Washington state in a hazardous profession, he had contributed nothing.

In his book, “Confessions of an Urban Fish and Wildlife Officer in Washington State,” (2019, Amazon) Haw notes that, “nearly all economically valuable populations of fish, as well as much of our native flora and fauna, are in a sorry state. Recreational fishing and hunting opportunities are shrinking.”

In his latest book, “Confessions of a Washington State Game Warden: An Insider Tells All,” (2020, Amazon) Haw says, “WDFW’s recreational fishing regulations pamphlet is best described as an oversized catalog of largely useless and misleading information. Courts don’t take our cases because of this publication. Our ability to prosecute violators is limited. This publication is used by defendants to beat charges.”

This, from a man who dedicated his life to enforcing the fishing laws.

How could such a disastrous collection of unenforceable laws be allowed to grow larger every year?

Go back and read the beginning of this column.

It’s enough to give you sympathy for the fish cop.

_________

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].

More in Opinion

Letter: Exemptions

Exemptions I was disappointed to read that 259 employees, 16 percent of… Continue reading

Letter: Rogers best choice

I am a friend of Karen Rogers and going to state why… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: An answer to an age old queston

It was daylight on the river. We were sitting in the vapors… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Claiming her story in her own words

This is a 99 percent match for you, Netflix told me. Maybe… Continue reading

LETTER: Backs Wennstrom

I strongly support Libby Wennstrom for Port Townsend City Council. As an… Continue reading

LETTER: Vote for incumbents

I’m casting my ballot for the current Port Angeles City Council because… Continue reading

LETTER: For Jena Stamper

As the local elections draw near, I would like you to consider… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The ‘Miracle of the Salmon’

This year’s big run of humpies, or pink salmon, in the Dungeness… Continue reading

LETTER: Lives, not rights, in danger

On the 19th of this month, my friend died of COVID-19. She… Continue reading

matt deines
POINT OF VIEW: Proposed IRS policy concerning

Death and taxes are both inevitable, according to Benjamin Franklin. While paying… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The forecast for this winter

Autumn must be my favorite time of year. If only because it… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: The transformation of a life

“I’m 30 days out today,” was the first thing Greg Steen said.… Continue reading