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February 14th, 2000

By James Castwell

One of the things I try to do is read. Mostly the wide assortment of fly-fishing magazines, trade journals and house-organs which hit here on a too regular basis. As a writer I need to attempt to keep up on what is happening and what others are thinking. Well, I read one the other day that set me off again, so here I go.

I know this isn't all that important to some now, don't worry about it. Someday you will get to a time in life where you will look at things differently. I am going to generalize a bit to make this all flow for you. These are bits and pieces of situations from over a few years, which collectively bug me.

At a big meeting in West Yellowstone, Montana a fellow from the east was trying to explain how they had a problem with a certain aspect of a fishery. He explained how they solved it and how the method may work in Montana. The group was not interested and informed him that out west they do things their own way. That bugged me.

Geoduck, the world's most disgusting clam

About five years ago, here in Washington, the State authorized a test collection of geoducks (big ugly clams some football size). There were public hearings. All of which had the same conclusion, we don't want it done. The State did it anyway. The State assured everyone there would be no problem, no silt, no destruction, and private tidelands would be exempt.. The ones doing the testing broke all the rules and tested about wherever they wanted. Way too close to the shore line etc. The method used blew deep holes where the clams had been and stirred up a huge amount of sediment. No big deal, right?

Wrong! I am not convinced the State even has the right to collect and sell the things anyway. Seems they might be the property of the folks who live out here. That being the taxpayers of this state, not the State Fisheries Department. That aside, the silt covered the eel grass with at least four inches of stuff and gave no place for the small fish to hide. The Dungeness crabs which used to live there got the heck out of town fast. No food for them anyhow. They are now slowly starting to show up again some . . . five years later! Just that testing screwed up the ecosystem badly. Looks like they are going to do some more soon, this time a real harvest. That too bugs me.

Sea Cucumber Try this one on for size. I read someone is going to harvest a huge amount of sea-cucumbers on the east coast. Now these are ugly, real ugly. But there is a market in the 'far east' for the two french-fry sized strips of meat in the two-foot long creatures. The rest is discarded. The things are the vacuum cleaners of their habitat, eating all sorts of stuff and very effectively removing bad chemicals from the water in the process, (like PCB) but who would care about that. Sell the rotten things, good riddance.

Ya, right! But not if you like to fish steelhead in the pacific north-west. You see the state sold off tons and tons of the things from Puget Sound out here. I never did learn where the money went, not sure I want to find out either. The point is, in general terms, Orca (killer whales) like to eat these things. As they are nearly all gone, the Orca have moved out. Problem with that is, the Orca also like to eat seals and sea-lions. Well, we sure have a great crop of those now that they have no enemies. Not even man, the Feds protected them for some reason (they are cute).

It is not rocket-science to know what seals and sea-lions like to eat. Salmon and steelhead, especially steelhead. Not the whole fish, mostly just a bite or two out of the middle of the fish as they collect at streams for spawning. You may have read we have many specie of fish on endangered and darn near extinct lists out here these days. Things like that bug me too.

Now, I have personally known some of the fellows in fisheries departments over the years and some were very dedicated, fine outstanding gentlemen. This is not about any of them. It is about the far too many bureaucratic bumblers who manage their own jobs at the expense of the fisheries they are paid and entrusted to protect. Who dreams this stuff up anyway? They bug me! ~ JC

Till next week, remember ...

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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