Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Smells Fishy

When I was a kid, during the summers that I visited him, I would go fishing with my dad a lot. I have a lot of great memories of spending hours early in the morning terrorizing fish. A few special times, I would go fishing with him on a boat.

Once it was with a friend who had a really small boat - about 22 feet making it small for the Pacific Ocean. A few other times was on charter boats out of Westport, Washington.

These were always good times even when the fishing was lousy and I was more focused on feeding the fish what I had for breakfast than actually catching them. Whenever we caught a fish, any fish big enough and was good eating, we would land it, kill it, clean it, and eat it.

Last weekend marked the end of my trips to the Seattle area for a while and I decided to go fishing once again. I called my dad, we met in Olympia, and pooled down to Westport. We stayed in a "resort" and went out at really early o' clock the next morning.

(It was a resort in name and price only. Had it been anywhere else it would struggle with the words "motor inn and bait shop.")

After spending about three hours on the water catching makerel (lousy taste and we already had enough bait) I landed the first salmon. There were nine of us fishing plus two crew - one of which was also fishing. I was moderately pleased with how the day was going. I caught the first fish and I had certainly had worse days on the ocean.

Then the next three fish were caught all within ten minutes of each other. A few were bigger than the one I had caught. No big deal. I still had another one to catch on my license and could still win the derby.

Then the crew threw each and every one of them back into the water.

I was incredulous. They were good looking fish. They were tasty looking fish. Coho silver salmon are good eating. Now all that meat was swimming away as fast as all of their silly fins could carry them.

My lone fish was still hanging out by himself in the hold.

I asked the crew what had just happened. They told me the fish were not legal. My dad - dad has a sense of humor that cannot be described in polite conversation - produced a box cutter and said, "We can make them legal!"

I still did not understand.

Everyone then explained that for a salmon to be a "legal catch" it must have had its second dorsal fin removed. Apparently they do not use them. This begs the question, "How is its dorsal fin removed?"

The dorsal fin is severed from the fish before it leaves the hatchery. In other words, no wild salmon may be kept. Only those from the hatchery and only those that have been marked. Apparently, the hatchery only marks 40 percent of the fish they release.

This to me seems to be among the silliest of regulations to come along in a long time. Hatchery salmon swim upstream and spawn as the wild ones do.

If the limit is two, what difference does it make if the fish are wild or not?

This restricts the fish kept to an artificial limit for what appears to be no good purpose. What does it serve to have them die on the beach during the next red tide? What if the game commission - or whoever controls the hatcheries - decides not to release or mark as many?

While there may be some scientific reason for all of this, it appears to be nothing more than environmentalism set on destroying the liesure time of everyone.


Weetabix said...

It may, may be scientific. In differential equations in college, one of the problems we worked involved just what amount of harvesting of fish (around Italy, I think) resulted in a net growth in population. They could be doing that.

On the other hand, it is government, so no logic need apply. It could just be stupid.

Sounds like a good time out there, though.

Shawn McManus said...

It might be but I cannot see the logic in it.

I caught my limit as well as my dad's but had to throw "his" back because they weren't legal.

One of the ones I threw back was the largest salmon I had ever caught. Of the two that I caught that were "keepable," they yeilded about 25lbs of meat.

Weetabix said...

Not playing devil's advocate or anything, but speaking mathematically, they could:
a)have an estimate of population,
b)know how many they release,
c)have an estimate of how many are caught,
d)have an estimate of how many need to be caught to maintain the balance they want, and
e)nick the appropriate number of fish to hit their targets.

That's essentially what the problem we worked did. I know with the advent of electricity and computers that sort of calculation is more within the reach of model-obsessed fish/biology geeks than ever before.

That said, it could still just come from the Ministry of Silly Policies.

Shawn McManus said...

Auuggghhhh. That's too mature a view for me. =)

Couldn't they just limit the number of licenses then? That way, I would not have to throw back a 35lb King Salmon just because it was "wild".