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

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

October 20, 1997

Dork Patrol

It keeps happening! Each time we go fishing locally, some slob or other direct relative of Dork is absolutely violating! A while back I ran into a couple of fly fishers with a terrific Coho salmon on the beach. They were shocked, I'm sure, to have someone, (me) yelling at them, "You can't keep that fish. The season is closed."

A little while later they walked down to where I was casting and said they were really glad I said something, they didn't know the season was closed. It makes it a little better that the fish seemed to survive when it was released. Then again, maybe it didn't. Who cares, what difference does it make?

Lots of folks care, me included. An hour or so later, a spin fisher was lobbing out a big silvery lure with multiple treble hooks on it. He could have been fishing for sole or halibut. Unfortunately, he was fishing for salmon. When he caught a salmon, I informed him, in strong terms, but as nicely as I could manage, "You can't keep that fish. The season is closed." He stammered a bit, stared at the fish attempting to turn it into anything other than the silver it was, and finally said, "I didn't know you couldn't keep Humpies." I responded, "In the first place it's not a Humpie, it's a Silver. And in the second place, Humpie season is also closed." Didn't give him much of a place to go. He didn't much like it when I told him his lure was also illegal. Salmon fishing in this state is with three hooks max, and barbless at that. (Fly fishers here can use one hook, barbless.)

A couple of the fellows I was fishing with commented that I could get away saying something because I am a woman. What was the guy going to do? Hit me? Fat chance. Why didn't anyone else say something?

Then there was a young kid, fourteen or so, out on the salt doing the same thing. He only had two barbed hooks on his spinning lure. When he caught a three-pound Coho, he really was going to release it. At least that's what he said. The problem was the fish was not making it. The kid had trouble getting the barbed hook out. We stood together in the surf while I showed him how to revive a fish. He held the fish gently, facing into the current for twenty minutes before the salmon swam off. That one probably didn't make it. The kid thought it was ok to fish with the illegal hooks because, "if you don't keep the fish they can't do anything to you."

Where does that kind of thinking come from? Why don't folks know what season is open, which is closed? What is legal and what isn't? Part of that blame lies with officials in state fisheries departments. Are the regs so complex and confusing that no one knows?

Another part is not knowing which fish is which. We have five species of salmon here. A couple might be confused, unless you look in the fish's mouth. Very small salmon don't have as many identifying points as adult fish. But who would want to keep a six-inch salmon anyway?

It's not just here - it's everywhere. Over the years I have seen fish snagged and kept (illegal), gutted for eggs, (illegal), thrown on the bank and left, (illegal), fish taken from private property, (illegal). netting in closed areas . . .

Fishermen complain about the lack of fish - dwindling numbers. This is all part of the problem. The violators, and the people who look the other way and won't open their mouths are all guilty. ~ The LadyFisher

Thanks to Cowles Enthusiast Media for photo use permission.
The Freshwater Species
By Dick Sternberg
© 1996 by Cy DeCosse Incorporated

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