Sorry Toto – We’re Not in the ’50s and ’60s Anymore

A week ago, Boyfriend-in-law Brian and I were up the Icicle with a paddle. My long-time friend and fishing pro Shane Magnuson was finding the springers in the river, but that high water kept most of them off our rigs. (Still, I guess we won: we still got more of them than they got of us.) Slow fishing day and all that; it was one of the best of days.

We spent a fair amount of our time talking boundaries, timing, and limits for fishing opportunities around the state. After discussing the current state of the Icicle (fairly much normal), we moved to other possibilities. That conversation, covering a mile or so of a beautiful drift down the Icicle, led into sockeye fishing on the Upper Columbia this summer (forget it), the chance of a spring Chinook season on the mid-Yakima below Roza (maybe – one fish per customer, please), the outlook for summer and fall Chinook runs along the Columbia (looking good, thanks), and the forecast for Coho – silvers – most anywhere in the state (good luck…). Such conversations always swing back to simpler decades-ago times, when regulations were on a few pages of a pamphlet.

Those were simpler times in oh so many ways. In the late ‘40s, Cousin Ron and I – somewhere around seven and six years of age, respectively – would walk the mile from his folks’ house on North 28th in Yakima to the Naches River, fishing gear in hand. We would stun and catch minnows, find grubs or grasshoppers, and spend the whole day fishing the stream. Late afternoon, generally just in time for supper, we’d find our way back with at least half a dozen trout up to a pound or more.

Today, we’d have to find a way through office parks and ponds, across Highway 12, and through that fence between the highway and the river. We’d likely find that we couldn’t fish for, or keep, the trout anyhow. ‘Course, that’s all pretty much moot, since any parents allowing – much less encouraging – youngsters to venture that far to play in a river would probably find themselves pretty quickly in the slammer. We live in a different world.

Then, early this week during the Board Meeting of our Kittitas County Field & Stream Club, a nearly identical conversation flowed through the room as we discussed upcoming hunting seasons and the changes afoot for seasons, bag limits and license fees. Inevitably, Homey Steve said something like, “Let’s just roll all the hunting seasons and rules and regulations back to the ‘60s and ‘70s when everything was in English and all in one small pamphlet!” Amidst a general, and somewhat sad, wistful, murmur of agreement, someone noted that, “Well, those were simpler times in so many ways…”

You think? When I was in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades, I would regularly (during fall) lug The Old Man’s J.C. Higgins bolt action 12-gauge the mile and a quarter from our humble little abode on Highline Drive (now under the front door of that East Wenatchee Costco) to the grade school. I would park it and a handful of assorted shotshells in the cloak closet, and hunt my way home after school. As I headed toward home, Mrs. Sprague would always say, “Hope you find a pheasant or a couple quail, Jimmy, I know how your mom loves those birds.” How far along Highline would that 11, 12 or 13 year-old get today, I wonder? We live in a different world.

Cousin Ron is wont to tell anyone that, if he was God – or ran the Department of Fish and Wildlife – the first thing he would do is roll all hunting and fishing regulations back to those days of our youth and near youth. Much as many of us might yearn for those days, it just isn’t that simple. And, given an educated choice, we probably wouldn’t want those regulations in today’s world.

One of the clearest, most succinct, explanations I have heard for today’s complications versus yesterday’s simplicity was given to the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club in 2011 by DFW’s then-director Phil Anderson.

Think about it, he urged us; Washington has nearly seven million people – twice as many as in1970. Ours is the smallest western state, with a relatively small amount of public land. We have an amazing diversity of fish and wildlife, in a wide variety of habitats – wet mountains, dry mountains, desert, semiarid and humid lowlands, temperate rainforests, open pine forests, salt water, small to large streams and lakes of all sizes. We also have 24 Treaty Tribes with rights to fish and wildlife and their co-management. Each combination of habitat and species requires one or more levels of specialized management. As I shook his hand at meeting’s close, he smiled. “You know,” he said, “we could pretty easily simplify the regs. …But it would take away a huge amount of today’s fishing and hunting opportunities. Who wants that?”

Sorry, Toto. We are not in the ‘50s and ‘60s any more.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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