PAT NEAL: Fishing without hooks
It’s been another tough week in the news. The Washington State Department of Wildlife threatened us with another emergency closure. We were warned last week that it could happen this week, or possibly next week, or whenever you least expect it. The state could eliminate rainbow trout fishing in the Olympic Peninsula.
We are told that even catch and release fishing will be prohibited.
This is despite a recent study where rainbow trout were fitted with tags and tracked with transponders as they passed through the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River. Researchers found that even after being caught twice, rainbow trout had a survival rate of over 96%.
Yet the state has banned catch-and-release fishing on most of Washington’s rainbow trout rivers while leaving Olympic Peninsula streams open. As a result, the peninsula’s rivers have become increasingly congested, putting increased pressure on our fisheries. I sure hope someone investigates the issue.
Meanwhile, over the past 20 years, the state has spent millions to restore fish habitat by building ice jams, spraying glyphosate, planting native vegetation and buying properties from vendors” volunteers” without a corresponding increase in fish populations.
Lately, the state is spending millions more building new bridges to improve fish passage for imaginary fish on tiny streams like our own Bagley Creek, where there are no salmon. The fact is, habitat restoration alone will not restore salmon. If habitat were the key to salmon restoration, there would be no threatened or endangered fish inside Olympic National Park’s pristine habitat.
Is there anything that can be done to restore our salmon and rainbow trout? Apparently not.
For example, the best rainbow trout fishing on the peninsula this winter was on the Bogachiel River, where over 3,000 rainbow trout returned to the hatchery.
Unfortunately we were not allowed to catch these fish. Instead of keeping these fish in the river, they were caught and donated to charity or sold by the state. Turns out the state doesn’t want hatchery fish in the river where we poor pigeons who buy fishing licenses can fish for them.
Let’s review: habitat restoration will not restore our fish. We eliminated fish hatcheries by using native broodstock that would complement our wild runs. We do not have the ability to catch hatchery fish that are farmed and even catch and release fishing is prohibited.
Is there a management scenario that will allow us to continue fishing? Yes.
Fish hooks have been determined by biologists to be harmful to fish. This concern is reflected in our fishing regulations which eventually required a barbless single point hook.
What if we completely removed the hooks? Would the benevolent state allow us to continue fishing without hooks?
Dictionaries define fishing as “the sport or activity of catching fish”.
Without hooks on your flies, lures or bait, you’re not fishing.
If you don’t fish, you don’t need a fishing license!
You are no different from a bird watcher, and no license is needed for this.
Does fishing without hooks mean you can’t come home with a bigger trophy than your buddy didn’t catch?
Of course not.
At Same Day Taxidermy™, we’ll simply enter the measurements of the fish you think you’ve bitten into your gear into our 3D printer and you’ll receive that fiberglass trophy of a lifetime at the end of your fishing trip.
Fishing without hooks sounds crazy, but in this crazy world, it’s our only chance to keep fishing.
We’ll thank each other later if we do the right thing now.
Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected]