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Don't take a kid fishing

By Pat Neal
For Sequim Gazette


"How's fishing?" I asked a pair of teenage boys trudging down the road on a hot August after­noon. One look told me fishing was bad but what the heck, mis­ery loves company and these boys were beyond misery. Limping along the hot asphalt in leaky rub­ber boots, they looked like they had been drug through a knot­hole, backwards.

Creek fishing on the Olympic Peninsula can do that to a person. It's not really fishing in the truest sense of the word, more like mountain climbing with a fishing pole. You lower yourself down into a canyon on tree limbs, then spend the rest of the day looking for a way out.

"We didn't catch anything," the boys said. I thought that was very strange. I explained to the boys how fishing in the Dunge­ness River should be very good about now, especially since it's been closed since last February.

"The Dungeness is closed?" the boys asked.

"Sure is," I said. "All the fish in the Dungeness are either threat­ened, endangered or extinct. You're just lucky I ain't a fish cop. They're meaner than pepper­-sprayed skinheads. They'd take your car and your boat if you had one. If they catch you now they'll probably just take your fishing gear and lock you in a federal prison with a bunch of drug deal­ers and sex offenders until your parents can mortgage the house to pay the fines and court costs."

"W e just wanted to go fishing_ ," the boys said.

"Sorry boys," I said. "Fishing is a hanging offense these days. Unless you work for the govern­ment, then they'll pay you to catch a bull trout, stuff a transmitter in its gullet and follow the poor brute long enough to get another grant. Stay in school boys. Get good grades and maybe you can get a government job where they'll let you fish."

"But isn't there a fish hatch­ery on the Dungeness?" the boys protested.

"Actually there are two fish hatcheries on the Dungeness," I explained. "But the state is trying to get rid of our fish hatcheries because they claim fish hatcher­ies don't work here. Runs of hatchery-raised salmon, steel­head and trout always tend to fail once you cut the feed budget, fire the crew and stop spawning the fish, so they want to do away with fish hatcheries altogether and wait for the wild fish to return on their own."

"How will they do that?" the boys asked.

"No problem," I explained, "Calamity County is buying up real estate along the Dungeness from `willing sellers.' These are people who suddenly can't get flood insurance or a permit to fix their dike, their house or their sep­tic system. Their family homes are reclassified as `salmon habi­tat.' The owners miraculously be­come `willing sellers' before their houses are condemned and they lose everything.

"Inevitably the `willing sell­ers' get an offer they can't refuse. They are willing to sell their homes to be bulldozed and trucked to the landfill.

"The demolished homes are then replaced by `native vegeta­tion.' This is based on a theory of fisheries restoration that some­how imagines fish grow on trees," I explained.

"But we just want to go fish­ing," the boys protested.

"You should have been here 100 years ago," I said. "These days you can do all the fishing you want on a video game. You could save yourself a lot of time and trouble by sitting at home playing video games instead of wasting your time on a river risking fines, jail or worse.

"Heck, there are lots of things you boys could do with your lives. Anything would be more con­structive than fishing. Why they just built you a couple of nice new parking lots downtown. You could go down there and hang out.
Use your imagination. You could hock your fishing gear and buy a skateboard. Maybe you can find some loose change. At least you won't get arrested."

I drove away with a sense of accomplishment, before the boys had a chance to thank me. I can't help but think my guiding influ­ence might have saved these youngsters from going down the wrong path of self-destructive behavior.
Our children are our most valuable natural resource. They represent our highest and best hopes and dreams of the future. We owe this younger generation the benefit of our experience to stay in school and out of jail long enough to join the Army.

I think it's the least we can do.

Sequim Gazette columnist Pat Neal is a fishing guide who lives in the Olympic Mountains. He can be reached at 360-683­9867 or via e-mail at patneal@ sequimgazette.com. His Web site is patneal wildlife. com.



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