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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fishing advice column for tourists

Happy tourists, for sure
A tourist asked me for some advice about fishing the Olympic Peninsula. 
As a fishing guide who spends more than 500 days a year on the water, (a figure arrived at using the same extrapolation methodology the State of Washington employs to count our fish and crabs) I am a representative of the tourist industry. I take great pride in providing the travelling public with accurate information to make their visit more enjoyable.
The most important thing to remember about tourists is that they are people too. Many have endured hellish travel conditions with security searches and flight delays aboard stuffy planes, or rutted roads jammed with suicidal drivers and scary bridges with no sign of a rest-stop anywhere. Tourists don’t want to hear how “they should have been here yesterday.”
Release the illegal bull trout
Tourists are at the end of a human pipeline that has lured them to the edge of the continent. Some are victims of the Twilight media frenzy that has them stalking the rainforest with visions of vampires in their heads.
Others want to fish for the 100-pound salmon the government says is about to return to the Elwha River. I’m not going to stomp on someone’s dreams just to be a know-it-all. Any day is a good day to see a vampire or catch a 100-pound salmon.The most important thing is you’ll need to fish for the hundred-pounder without fines, jail time or community service. Get a recent copy of this year’s fishing laws.
There is a separate set of fishing laws for state and federal waters, known collectively as “The Fish Cop Employment Security Act.”  I have spent years translating these laws into English. The most recent evidence suggests the fishing laws are a sort of code that is changed as soon as it is deciphered.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Just ask the Port Angeles man recently charged by Olympic National Park rangers with catching a Bull Trout in Lake Mills up the Elwha River. He could be facing a fine of $1,300!
The fact that the feds are going to destroy the bull trout’s home when they pull the plug on Lake Mills by taking the dams out of the Elwha does not matter. At least the money goes to a good cause.
Oly National is always short of funds. They can’t even afford to keep the Hurricane Ridge Road open.
Instead they are going to dig up the pavement on the Olympic Hot Springs Trail on the Elwha and pave Spruce Railroad Trail at Lake Crescent. Imposing thousand-dollar fines for catching a trout could rebuild our failing infrastructure.
That must be why the Hoh, a river that’s only about 50 miles long, has been divided by two government agencies into six separate fish management zones, each with different gear requirements and special regulations that can change when you least expect it.
While anglers are generally allowed to keep a fish with a clipped adipose fin, it ain’t necessarily so. You must release any hatchery-fin-clipped salmon caught in the Hoh River on Mondays and Tuesdays until Sept 1.
To the south on the Queets River, you may keep unclipped fish with an adipose fin; if it has a dorsal fin less than 2 and 1/8 inches high.
Even the locals are confused.
Tourists may require an attorney to understand the fishing laws. If you cannot afford an attorney then you probably cannot afford to go fishing.
The best advice I can give tourists about fishing the Olympic Peninsula: You should have been here 100 years ago.

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