Deputy Chief, Fish and Wildlife Police
I have never been a fan of catch and release. Call me a Neanderthal, but for me, not being able take my quarry home so my girls can apply what we learned on the Cooking Network seems…well…sort of like going fishing and not catching anything. That’s not a shot at those that let stuff go on purpose. But for consumptive users like me, selective fishing, possession prohibitions, or closed areas, it all means a lower chance of killing something and a less-than-satisfying experience. That may be a sentiment shared by the Sno-King Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers who took an informal University of Washington Survey. Professor Christian Grue’s class asked chapter members a number of questions, including “Given the choice of either not fishing for Chinook or coho salmon within Marine Areas in Puget Sound or being able to participate in a catch and release fishery, what would you choose?” Of the respondents, 55% said they wouldn’t fish.
I can resign myself to those things out of our control that have an influence on the health of natural resources (ocean conditions were poor again, it rained too much, it rained too little, etc.). But while Momma Nature has a lot of influence, she can also be a scapegoat for human nature. When that happens, I tend to resent having sacrificed my perspective of a quality fishing experience so some other guy can take advantage of it. As a Fish and Wildlife Police Officer, I want to know how we got there because it can help redirect our efforts. As an angler, I want to know who to be pissed off at.
Pinning down the cause of troubled fish stocks, whether it is man v. nature, or nature v. nature, can be exceedingly difficult – which ultimately generates a lot of finger pointing. We often never do figure out who (or what) to blame for lost harvest opportunities. In my experience, you can take your pick from the typical choices:
- The best available science is faulty, and we didn’t know it;
- We got in our own way. Not to digress, but the bane of Fish Cops is the well- intended balancing of human needs with conservation. The result often creates an enforcement landscape so complex the answers are buried under impenetrable layers of process or legalese.
- The truth gets entangled in political posturing intense enough to suck any desire out of investigating the cause;
- and my personal favorite; We are too lazy or disinterested to look in the first place. In other words, if you don’t go, you don’t know…and we all know how blissful ignorance can be. In my experience, the answer is usually
- “all of the above.”
“Go to our FISH FOR FUN page for the rest of this story.