Twilight Time for Twilight

These days it seems fewer and fewer Twilight fans are making the pilgrimage to Forks.

With the commercial success of the Twilight book and movie series, the once proclaimed logging capitol of the world had morphed into the vampire capitol of the universe.

I remember the good old days when hoards of soggy teenagers huddled in the rain in front of the “Welcome to Forks” sign while the rest of the family who’d been drug from across the country and around the world, waited in the car.

Waiting, to find the rest room facilities, cash machines and drive to LaPush and hassle the Indians about what time they were going to turn into werewolves.

All of which startled the locals until they figured out the Twi-hards were tourists and the season was suddenly opened year-round.

The next thing you know there were Twilight camp firewood bundles.

I’m not bitter. Just because the Twilight phenomenon boom thing didn’t work for me.  Even though I was the only  fishing guide on the Peninsula to offer a Twilight Fishing Fantasy where for a limited time only with additional fees and service charges, the Twi-hards had the once in a lifetime opportunity to go fishing with Edward and Bella.

OK, maybe they were just cardboard reproductions of the Twilight characters but I sell dreams, of hooking silver fish in blue water while partying with the latest Hollywood heart throbs.

Things went OK on the first Twilight Fantasy Fishing trip. Unfortunately the Twilight figures were not waterproof.  I should have known better.

We were fishing in the Hoh Rainforest where it rains. A lot. After a soaking I had to tape Edward to a kindling stick to give him enough backbone to sit upright and poor Bella got so bleached out she looked like an anorexic version of “The Mummy.”

Then there were the other fishing guides, whose uncharitable remarks only revealed how bitter they were about not thinking up the idea first and the delusional Twi-hards who wondered if we were going to catch a 100-pound salmon. I said it was a good day to try.

Instead we snagged into a spawned out bull trout that tore off downriver like a runaway shopping cart to where the river dove into a brush pile called, “The Tunnel of Love” in the brochure.

That’s where tragedy struck. Edward and Bella failed to execute a crucial limbo move. They got ripped and laid together in the bilge for an eternity or the next trip to the dump I don’t remember.

So I retired from the Twilight industry. Looking back I realize how wrong it was to prey upon the deranged fantasies of city slickers who were convinced they were going to see a werewolf swinging on a vine around the next bend of the river with a big old vampire on his tail.

Instead I decided to devote my life to sharing with our tourist’s friends the experience of seeing a real creature, the Sasquatch.

According to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization, Washington state leads the nation in Bigfoot sightings, at 525!

Most if not many of these reports were not sightings of me walking in the woods.

The BFRO has a TV show called “Finding Bigfoot” on the Animal Channel where they hunt for the creature with gangs of people and high-tech gadgets.

This does not work.

You cannot hunt a Sasquatch. Your only chance to see one is if they are hunting you.

To attract a curious creature, you must exhibit curious behavior.

 Next: The Bigfoot Hunter’s Cookbook



Extincto-mania hits the Peninsula

Pat Neal meets the Manis mastodon at the Museum and Arts Center of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley on West Cedar Street.

Thank you for reading this. If you don’t, no one will and we would be deprived of the luxury of your criticism.

I think it was the famous Greek philosopher, “What’s His Name,” who said, “Criticism is easier than craftsmanship.” I should have known better than to criticize the biologists.

I can offer no excuse for saying that these brave scientists would profit from the extinction of the fish, whales, birds or any other organism they happen to be studying.

I’m probably just bitter for not being a biologist myself. I could have been a crackerjack biologist except for one thing: the 4th grade. That’s when they hit us with the new math, which I didn’t get. The math teacher said pie are square when anyone knows pies are round. Blackberry cobblers and apple crisps are square.

Math is the language of science.  I had to take off my shoes and use my toes to count beyond 10. So I became a fishing guide where each number is divided or multiplied by a factor of two, depending on who you are talking to.

It was only by accident I became a wilderness gossip columnist, a bottom feeder in the shady underworld of print journalism, spewing misanthropic venom in a crude attempt at humor. That was no excuse to tar all biologists with the same wide brush when it’s really just the 90 percent of them that give the rest a bad name.

Just because I am a fishing guide is no excuse for me to be angry about the fish going extinct. The worse fishing gets, the more you need a guide. And besides, why should we care about fishing for salmon for our own food when there’s canned tuna at the food bank.

It’s an historical fact that extinction is a way of life on the North Olympic Peninsula.

It began shortly after the last ice age near Sequim, where archeologists discovered the remains of a mastodon with a spear point in its rib. One theory suggests that an exploding population of Stone Age hunters in the new world was responsible for the extinction of the pleistocene mega-fauna, the mammoths, giant bison caribou and other species that once roamed this place.

Doesn’t matter, they are gone now.

Our next big extinction occurred when the American Capt. Gray traded some iron chisels for sea otter skins at the mouth of a river he named after his ship, the Columbia. This set off the treachery and slaughter of the fur trade that wiped out the otters and many of the Native Americans who hunted them.

Spanish explorers were sure the Strait of Juan de Fuca was the Northwest Passage connecting to the Atlantic Ocean because of the abundance of all types of whales, including blue, sperm and humpbacked.

James Swan visited the Strait of Juan de Fuca with an eye to build a whaling station but Victoria, British Columbia, beat him to it.

As man moved inland the larger land animals went extinct.

In 1885 Lt. Joseph P. O’Neil reported large herds of tame elk in the high Olympics.

They had never seen man. By the 1900s the elk had been wiped out by market hunting, thrill seekers who massacred entire herds and the trade in ivory elk teeth for a gentleman’s watch fob.

To preserve what was left of the elk, the wolves were hunted to extinction in the 1930s.

Meanwhile, with the invention of the soldered tin can, the fishing industry took off.

The question isn’t why are the salmon going extinct on the Peninsula but, why did it take this long?

The emergency closure

log jam on Salt Creek

Engineered log jam on Salt Creek

It was another tough week in the news. The dreaded emergency closure reared its ugly head and stopped us from fishing many of our beloved rivers flowing into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Emergency closures are not a new thing. The way our fisheries are managed there is always an emergency somewhere.
While emergency closures because of low numbers of fish have become a common management tactic, it’s interesting to note that there is never an emergency opening of a fishing season because of a sudden abundance of fish.
Rumors of the current emergency closure were first heard back in December when government biologists said there were low returns of native steelhead in rivers running into Puget Sound.
How the biologists knew there were low returns in December when the native steelhead don’t generally return until February is anyone’s guess.
Predicting the numbers of returning fish is an inexact science based upon a number of factors like smolt traps where the baby fish migrating downriver and out to sea are counted. This is a lot like counting your chickens before they are hatched, except an unknown number of smolts are killed in the smolt traps, but as they say you can’t make an omellette without breaking a few eggs.
With the recent budget cuts, shutting down the fishing season just seemed to make sense to people who don’t fish. After all, if no one is fishing, you don’t need fish cops or fish checkers or anyone to sell the licenses or count the punch cards.
The emergency closure worked so well on the Puget Sound Streams that it was decided to try it on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In addition there are rumors of more emergency closures on the Chehalis River system. This of course has all been decided before one fish was actually counted.
The actual numbers of fish don’t really matter. All that is required is to have the fish declared threatened and or endangered.
Then the gravy train of federal funds will flow and the fish restoration industry can work its magic.
I can think of no finer example of this phenomenon than the Dungeness River. Once called the finest spring steelhead river in the state, the Dungeness had huge runs of humpies, spring Chinook, chums and silvers.
Now, after 20 years of Dungeness salmon restoration, these same fish are rare, endangered or just plain gone. Today the Dungeness, a river with two fish hatcheries, is closed to fishing most of the year.
It all began with the simple emergency closure.
Then it was decided to cut the fish hatcheries’ budget. The money was used to buy property from “willing sellers.” The phrase is defined by the current Wild Olympics campaign not as a land-owning citizen, but as a “mechanism by which land can be acquired.”
Anyone who was not a willing seller risked having a biologist knock on their door to declare their home as bull trout habitat. Many then quickly became willing sellers.
Their homes were then bulldozed, thrown in the landfill and replaced with native vegetation. The river was then landscaped with engineered log jams tied together with steel cables, which made it impossible to fish even if the season was open.
The Dungeness is not unique. Coincidentally, all of the other streams that were just closed to fishing because of the “emergency” have been “restored” in much the same manner with the same dismal results.
The endless repetition of a failed experiment has been called a form of insanity.
I call it salmon restoration.

A biological study to remember

If I had but just one wish, I would be a biologist.
What could be better than to wake up in the morning and spend your days playing God with the ecosystem.
Heck, I’d work for free if they’d just buy fuel for the Humvee, ammunition, gill net, crossbow, bullhorn, dart gun, spotlight, harpoons, party barge, pepper spray, seal bombs, radio collars and electroshocking device.
All you need to be a biologist is something to study and a big bag of money. The possibilities are endless.
For example, the Japanese whaling industry depends on biologists to study whales so that the whales can continue to be slaughtered for research. The biologists recently published the results of their research on 4,500 whale carcasses and discovered an interesting fact: the whales are getting thinner. The cause could be global warming or over-fishing but we will need more studies to determine the exact cause.
Anything the Japanese can study, we can study better.
Say what you want about the economy but government grants continue to fall out of the sky like manna from heaven. America is still the land of opportunity where you can study anything you want.
National Park Service biologists recently studied the ear bones of 100 bull trout from the Hoh River. Bull trout are listed as an endangered species that is so rare, that if you should accidently hook one you must release the fish without taking it out of the water. The ear bones or “otoliths” record the life of the fish like the rings of a tree. Otoliths are like flight recorders of the migration from the river to the ocean and back. Unfortunately, to study otolith you must cut it out of the bull trout head, which kills them. That’s research for you.
Even the small fish are not immune to the biologists study. Biologists love to electro-shock streams because the results are so immediate and dramatic. Electric current stuns the fish so they float to the surface where they can be counted, measured and even implanted with electronic tracking devices.
Unfortunately electro-shocking the fish can have serious side effects from burns to killing fish eggs where they were laid in the gravel, deforming the spines on baby fish and making large fish more vulnerable to predators. We’re studying the problem.
Rare and endangered species of birds are not immune to study. The marbled murrelet and the northern spotted owl have been outfitted with cute little transmitter packs that track their every movement and compromise their ability to survive. Coincidentally, populations of these rare and endangered birds continue to decline, even inside Olympic National Park.
Now a biologist wants to stick a transmitter on the dorsal fin of a Puget Sound killer whale to see where they go in winter. That sounds like fun but do we really need to stick a whale and risk enraging or infecting them to answer that question?
Puget Sound orcas prefer king salmon. Don’t we all? Except for the immature blackmouth, there are no king salmon in Puget Sound in winter.
The whales follow the fish. Find the fish and you’ll find the whales without torturing them.
Maybe it’s about time someone studied the biologists.
Perhaps someone could get a Federal grant to fit biologists with a small, color coordinated collars that would record their every movement with GPS satellite accuracy along with rates of respiration, temperature, blood-alcohol levels, drug chemistry as well as valuable polygraph data.
I think it is an idea whose time has come. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.