Inslee has a plan! Uh-oh. Just kidding. Sort of.

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Inslee has a plan! Uh-oh. Just kidding. Sort of.

Inslee has a plan! Uh-oh. Just kidding. Sort of.

By Patrick McGann

So my wife, the sicilian, and I are sitting there the other day and she is scratching furiously with a No. 2 Ticonderoga on a yellow legal pad doing columns of numbers, and her head pops up, “If you sell that boat we can get your Diamond pool table and you can put it in the living room.”

That, my friends, is a 100 mph fast ball. I mean, that got the cocked head and the big dog, “Roh?” She isn’t serious, though. This is the first boat we’ve ever had when going across the Sound flat out, that she’s looked at me and said, “I really like this boat.”

I mean, we just bought it, a spanking new 20’ soft-top Duck. It’s just that the ledger is still barking, as they say. And it will keep barking until I can say, “Better turn in, we gotta be up at 3:00.” And it’s close. I can almost smell it. Or is that the cat box?

North of Falcon! As we tumble once again down the odious chute of the salmon season setting process, the crystal ballers at NMFS have presented their forecasts. Generally, they look cautiously promising: more chinook, a bit fewer coho. But as we’ve been taught, factors other than abundance are at play. Which is it, fishing licenses and ramp fees or 9-ball tournaments? Round and round she goes and where co-management stops, nobody knows.

But as we tumble, we are handed a brochure. A slick 25-pager with the catchy title “The Governor’s Salmon Strategy Update.”

Spoiler alert: It’s terrible. But not terribly so. Here is my summary. Blahblah, blahblahblah, gonna, gonna, blah, noble co-managers, blahblah, of course we’ll respect you in the morning, sportsfishers, and hatcheries! Just not for you. And oh, $187 million. Roh?

The proposal contains eight actions: 1. Habitat; 2. Water quality; 3. Fish passage; 4. Climate action; 5. “Align harvest, hatcheries & hydropower with salmon recovery;” 6. Address predation and food web issues for salmon; 7. Better coordination across agencies; and, 8. Beef up the science.

OK, so I’m Charlie Brown and now about to kick the ball. You ready, Lucy? We’ve heard most of this good-government (AKA goo-goo) babble before. Like every year for decades. And then that bad legislature axe hacks it and Olympia cries, “It’s not my fault!”

Dare I speak positively? OK. Let’s try. There is an explicit mention of predation. We’re still not coming right out and saying “shoot the bastards” but this is an improvement.

Fund better harvest monitoring. I’m all in, baby. All this guessing is killing individual fishers and helping the wholesale harvesters (who believe the opposite, which is OK).

Contrary to the governor’s actions, in this document he says the state should transition the non-tribal gillnets out of the Columbia. I have lost track. Is this a flip or a flop? Just call me Sunny Jim, but I think we may be there. Right, Lucy?

I thought a particularly aggressive stance was: “Work with co-managers to develop new strategies for harvest….” Is he trying to say that what we’ve been doing for the last 30 years isn’t working? Huh.

Then, if one squints hard enough, one might see our square-jawed governor looking north and seeing maybe an opportunity to address, simply to address, where the 70- to 80% of the harvest of Puget Sound chinook occurs and that minimal reduction there can be much more effective than traumatic amputation here. That we’re going to “work with Canadian, tribal, federal, and other state managers to resolve interjurisdictional impediments” — interjurisdictional impediments! — “to salmon recovery.” Might one of those “other states” be Alaska? Be still my heart! Particularly the southeast where a significant majority of commercials up there are based in Washington? Up there to circumvent Boldt? Dare I? Our champion rises!

And that’s where we depart our safe, happy place.

This document is pro-hatchery. It comes right out and proclaims the state of Washington is going to “enhance the production” of salmon. Meaning, it’s going to crank up the hatcheries. Courts willing, of course. And man, that is the biggest, shrimpiest, slurpiest hoochie I’ve ever seen and just about as I bite and swallow that thing down to my Nikes, I read the last item under hatchery action.

“Ensure that salmon harvest allocation provide food for Southern Resident orcas first (original emphasis) before allocating (my emphasis) harvest to commercial or recreational anglers.”

The best thing I can say about that, since the non-tribal commercial harvest within Puget Sound is non-existent, really, is that I hope by “commercial” he means both tribal and non-tribal commercial harvest. Tribal harvest is commercial harvest. Tribal netters kill a whole bunch of fish, a lot at a time, like Tyson kills chickens — yes, just like that — and then they sell them just like Cargill or Smithfield or Trident does and they’re processed and packaged into shrink wrap and Styrofoam where people who don’t fish think they originate. So that must be what he means. But we know better, don’t we.

But I am afraid what the governor is saying is that not only should Washington’s citizens, both the fishing public and taxpayers, who are taking on the brunt of habitat loss, the brunt of climate change, the brunt of northern overharvest are now going to be asked to shoulder the very real crisis with orcas. What a surprise.

But how can I poo poo the goo goo boiler in this pamphlet and not poo poo the, well, poo of this proposal? Aside from the fact that for decades now the good news from the state of Washington tends not to happen and the bad news does.

Except … money. Gov. Inslee is proposing to spend $187 million on this proposal. It is in his supplemental budget which the legislature is going to vote on. Since this is not my first rodeo, I would think much of the language in this proposal is designed to achieve passage in a balky, unpredictable legislature rather than to make me happy. Whatever it takes, man.

I hope it is successful. I hope Washington’s senators and representatives understand the critical need for this spending. I hope with that much money raining down on the problem, particularly in hatchery chinook production, there will be at least cookie crumbs for the masses, a great improvement.

And enter the feds. The federal government is doing what it does best this coming year by injecting the hatchery production systems in Washington — federal and state— with a lot of money. We are going to see hatchery production in Washington — coast, Columbia and Salish sea — increase by 30%. A great deal of that is going to go to chum hatcheries, but almost every hatchery that produces chinook is going to get a big shot in the arm.

Back in the day outdoor writers used to say that our real competition was bowling, golf and billiards. And that our job was to help people understand not just the momentary thrill of a big fish, but what it means in the big picture, in the give and take of nature, that fish don’t originate in groceries in shrink wrap on Styrofoam. That salmon and people are all part of the same circle. To fish is to be in the circle, to commune, and communion is essential. Yeah, I know … cue the big sighs and exasperated eye rolls.

Right. Well, as our leaders and partners keep grinding out this hash of management, it is that, and only that we have to hold on to. It’s that or a cue stick and there ain’t no license fees and Dingell-Johnson excise taxes on those.  ssj

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