Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

October 12th, 1998

Not Illegal?

Castwell and I took a little scouting trip mid-week. One of our 'on-line' friends and his bride are heading our way this week, and we want to take them salmon fishing. Logic ruling this household, the natural thing is to check out the known streams and estuaries which should have salmon at this time of year.

We didn't do this exactly blind either. For several years Castwell has kept a journal of our fishing in our TideLog. Here is an unsolicited plug for what we both think is the very best tide book we have found. There are several others available here on the west coast, none in my opinion as good. This one is published by Pacific Publisher in Bolinas CA. Most of the better fly shops in this region have it - but if yours doesn't it is available by mail order on a 24-hour toll-free orderline: (888)TIDELOG.

They publish an Edition for Northern California, Puget Sound, Southern California, Chesapeake, MidAtlantic-(N.J. and south L.I.), Northern New England-(Cape Cod and north through Maine), Southern New England - (Narragansett Bay, Block Island Sound), Long Island Sound, and Southeastern Edition -(the Carolinas and Georgia.)

For you flatlanders who haven't yet fished the salt, tides can be every important- (multiply that a couple of times by the fact the tide locally can rise and fall 13 feet or more, and does that twice a day here on the Pacific.) So if your fishing success depending on fishing where the fish need to get to or up a stream or river, you do need to be there when there is water. Or enough water at least for the fish to be able to swim.

Another important factor is the speed of the incoming or outgoing tide. In between the high and low tides is a period known as slack tide. That occures when the tide really isn't either going in or out. Fish behave in predictable ways depending on the tides!

Tide Log

Back to the tide book. It also shows the speed of the tides. Which is also relevant to which flies and lines are used. By the way it has other neat stuff, like lunar eclipses, meteor showers, and placement of the planets as part of the pages. There is also enough empty room to write a line or two about that days fishing.

So after checking 4 years worth of tide logs, we head for one of the more productive local estuaries. And as expected via the previous records, we have salmon!

Chum Salmon

But it is just at low tide, and there is hardly enough water in the creek for the salmon to make it upstream, as you can see in the above photo. Along the way are a few deeper pools and runs, allowing the fish to rest before continuing upstream.

Walking out to the end of the creek bank we only saw a half dozen anglers. None had fish. We chatted with some and were told the fish were mostly making their runs late afternoon or evening. And the numbers of salmon then were substantial. Good news, since salmon there last year were very sparse. If you plan on fishing chum salmon this fall, be sure to tie up Castwell's Chum Fly. And don't miss "how to fish" the fly!

It's Not Illegal!

Finally walking back, we saw a kid probably 15, with a spinning rod, trying to 'catch' a captive salmon. The salmon was trapped in a puddle of water slightly larger than a bathtub.

Castwell asked if he could take his picture. The kid said, "Sure" but wasn't pleased when Castwell told him he didn't have a picture of someone snagging. The kid protested, saying he wasn't snagging, and if he was he "would have a really big one."

Opps. Wrong thing to say with me standing there. I asked the kid why he thought what he was doing, (which was casting a hook and corkie just past the trapped salmon and retrieving it through the fishes mouth or as close to it as he could) was sporting. I also asked if he was fishing to keep fish. He told me he never kept fish, especially salmon, and "it's not illegal!"


He also explained there weren't any fish coming in right then, and he thought he would just 'play' with this one.

What happened? The kid, Dave, got a lecture. I can't believe a kid, (who told me he had been fishing there for five years) never had anyone explain to him that just because something might not be 'illegal' it doesn't necessarily mean it is proper! Or right, or moral or ethical.

In some circles, and some countries what the kid was doing is illegal - and what it amounts to is harrassing the fish. Tacky at the least, certainly unethical. The bottom line is the kid left heading for the end of the creek bank. I watched for a long time. Long enough for the incoming tide to flood the trapped area. The kid did not return.

This is not about me standing up and saying what someone was doing is wrong. It is about the sad place we are when a kid with some fishing experience thinks if it isn't illegal it's ok. And no one has given the kid any frame of reference or moral, ethical base from which to function.

I am eternally grateful for those who took the time, set the rules, and steered my development as a fly fisher and person.

Hopefully the kid, Dave, got the message. It matters.

~ Deanna Birkholm

For even more on ethics, what is legal and ethical in other countries, read Mike Connors on Fishing Ethics.

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