PAT NEAL: The best April Fools’ joke ever

APRIL FOOLS’ DAY must be my favorite holiday.

It’s on April 1, which makes it easy to remember.

As we get ready for the big day, excitement builds to a fever pitch in anticipation for this year’s festivities this Saturday.

We remember the madcap antics of April Fools’ Days past.

It’s when we were food poisoned by Borax in the hotcake batter, lacerated with thumb tacks in the bottom of our waders or shellshocked by seal bombs in the outhouse.

We look forward to this year’s event with a heady mixture of the trepidation and revenge with which we celebrate this feast of fools.

Like our other holidays, April Fools’ Day can require extensive preparations.

To get ready for Christmas, we chop down a tree, set it up in the house to marvel at the lights and watch it carefully so it doesn’t catch fire.

To get ready for Easter, we boil, color and hide eggs around the house since it’s raining too hard for the kids to go outside.

Inevitably, some of these eggs are found weeks later when the unsavory aroma gives them away.

April Fools’ Day can require more preparation and hassle than all those other holidays put together — if you fish, that is.

That’s because a large part of the mirth, frivolity and madcap sense of the absurd is not performed by an anonymous drunken fisherman but by a government bureaucracy that we have no possibility of getting even with.

This is due in large part to the happy coincidence that April 1 is the day chosen by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to require new fishing licenses.

You probably thought the state of Washington was run by a power-mad cabal of self-serving, pencil-pushing, pocket-lining functionaries whose only purpose is to make our lives miserable.

You didn’t know that the government also has a keen sense of humor, irony and revenge, but it does.

Why else would it insist that we get our new fishing license and punch cards on April Fools’ Day?

The money from fishing license and punch card sales goes to support many worthwhile government programs like the advanced state-of-the-art computer system that is required to administer fishing license and punch card sales.

These revenues provide vital funding for the latest scientific research that might someday allow the state to design a punch card the average angler can figure out.

The fact is the average angler is not the sharpest bulb in the shed.

Filling out a punch card in the miserable weather to which the punch card puncher is subjected can be a challenge to our organizational skills.

The punch card must be filled out in ink.

Just getting a frozen or wet pen to work often results in an ink blot that resembles a Rorschach test.

We are assured that someone in the government actually reads the punch cards, but how could they?

It’s all part of the April Fools’ Day fun.

But what makes April Fools’ Day really fun is that many people just assume you get a new fishing license on Jan. 1.

This confusion provides vital funding to the state in the form of tickets written to hapless anglers for unwittingly fishing with an expired license.

Getting a fishing license on April Fools’ Day is a really great prank because the state does not come out with the fishing laws until July.

If you buy your fishing license on April 1, you won’t know if you can even use it until months later.

It’s the best April Fools’ Day joke ever.


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