This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
October 24th, 2005

Hot Buttons

We all have things which 'push our buttons' - or pet peeves. Me too.

Our local Chum Salmon season brings this one up. We see it every year, and I suppose there isn't much I can do about it. It seems to be part of the culture, well local at least.

Here we have these magnificent fish which swim thousands of miles to get back to where they were hatched, make it to the estuaries and wait for the next rain or high tide to provide enough water in the creek for them to make their final run upstream. Anglers, both spin and fly gather to try their best to catch at least one.

Some years it looks like something out of the caveman era of hunter-gatherers. And the behavior of some the fisherman isn't far from neanderthal. Spinning lines crossed one over another, a few fly fishers trying to get a line out anywhere. People standing shoulder-to-shoulder lining the edges of the estuary. Each very intent on 'catching' a big chum salmon. It gets worse when someone actually has a fish on.

Spin fisherman cast their corkies or whatever as far as they can. Some use a fast retrieve, and if the line stops, whump! In plain speak, they attempt to snag the fish. Or the line is cast out, enough slack is reeled in to make the line between the fisherman and the weighted lure tight. If a salmon happens to swim into the line, WHUMP! The line slides across the fish's mouth and is hooked. Salmon do swim with their mouth open. In fact, mature males have a kype (hook jaw), which can be so pronounced the fish cannot close its mouth.

Catching fish this way is legal. The state of Washington does not consider chum salmon a sport fish. It is classified as a food fish, so expecting fishermen to fair-hook a chum is not realistic. But something is wrong with that assumption too.

I've seen people who snagged salmon on the back, belly, dorsal fin or tail release the fish. Some even revived the fish. Others didn't. Even fish that were supposedly caught had the lure hooked on the outside of the fish's mouth. Looks to me like it doesn't matter if you use an orange, green or cerise lure - or fly.

Why am I picking on the spin fishers? There are a lot more spin fishers than fly fishers out chasing chum. And besides, I can cast a spinning rod as well as some well-known spin fishers can cast a fly rod. You don't have to be a horse to know what hay is. Snagging is snagging.

As long as I am on my soap box, here is another pet peeve: I have seen fly fishermen with expensive gear, some who traveled quite a distance to get there, catch a nice fish. Fairly caught, even well fought, but they treat fish as though the object of their trips and expense was absolute garbage.

If you are going to release a fish, don't drag it up on the beach, and let the fish get beat around on the gravel. Battered fish might be a recipe - but it is not how to handle a fish. That includes big fish. It is not acceptable to kick a fish back into the water. You don't have to remove the fish from the water to remove the hook. Once the hook is out, aim the head into the current so the water can flow through the gills. Gently support the fish from underneath until it has enough strength to swim off on its own. Just because a fish you 'threw' back swam off doesn't mean it will live.

I can't believe the lack of respect for a truly wonderful resource I see almost every time I go fishing. These fish are not trash. Surprisingly, I haven't seen any of these so-called fishermen take the roast they just purchased at the store out to the parking lot and kick it around. Perhaps they wait to do that when they get home.

Treating a hooked fish with respect includes proper handling. Wetting your hands before you touch the fish, carefully removing the hook - not tearing it out, and reviving the fish (You don't have to take it as far as Castwell does. He often says, "Thank you, Mr. Fish.") I'm not that bad, I just pat them on the head gently and say "Thank You."

Using appropriate gear helps. Catching a big fish on light gear might be a kick for the fisherman, but it will take longer to land the fish. More stress and damage to the fish, particularly if you plan on releasing it.

Stupid, rough, careless handling and mistreatment of fish by scum-sucking, angus-intellect, pond-slime pseudo-anglers is just the ammunition PETA miscreants thrive on.

Grow up. Smarten up. Clean up your act. Or don't fish. And oh yes, have a nice day! ~ DLB

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