Sympathy for the Fish Cop.

Thank you for reading this. You send the most interesting letters.

One of the best came as a response to my explanation of how our fishing laws are made — how our biologists emerge from their burrows beneath the State Capitol, where they have spent the winter hibernating.

If they see their shadows, they come up with another fishing law.

Favorites include the “Stationary Gear Restriction,” which says, “the line, weight, lure or bait must be moving while in the water.”

This makes it illegal to get snagged on the bottom.

The definition of wild Steelhead claims they have unclipped adipose or ventral fins, but tribal hatcheries clip the dorsal fin.

We are told in one section of the fishing laws we can use up to three hooks on a floating lure then told in another we can only use one single-point, barbless hook.

Who knew it was illegal to fish for jack salmon or steelhead after you caught your limit of adult salmon?

It’s illegal to keep a green crab. These invasive species could devastate our Dungeness crab and clam populations, but we must release them!

Our fishing laws are so confusing, no two anglers can agree on what they say.

It was wrong to call our fishing laws the “Fish Cop Employment Security Act.”

I know that now after being contacted by a retired fish cop who revealed that Washington’s whacko fishing laws victimize both the public and the officers entrusted with enforcing them.

Greg Haw started his 39-year career enforcing fish and wildlife regulations in 1985 in Forks.

As a young officer, Haw was obsessed, in his own words, with catching salmon snaggers and poachers while working 12-hour days, seven days a week. He thought he was making a difference.

His father, Frank Haw, was a fisheries biologist with 75 years of fishing experience who worked to improve recreational fishing opportunities back when the number of salmon anglers equaled the combined yearly attendance of Seattle’s three major league teams — when Washington’s recreational salmon anglers caught more than the sport salmon catches of California, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska combined.

This was accomplished by using fish hatcheries like the one at the Dungeness River, where in 1961, for example, 1,283,000 spring Chinook, 1,062,000 fall Chinook and 2,500,000 Coho salmon were hatched and released to migrate north and return, feeding a fishing industry and the orca on the way.

Upon retiring from fisheries enforcement, Haw entered a period of bleak depression.

He wondered if, after dedicating 39 years of his life working to protect the natural resources of Washington state in a hazardous profession, he had contributed nothing.

In his book, “Confessions of an Urban Fish and Wildlife Officer in Washington State,” (2019, Amazon) Haw notes that, “nearly all economically valuable populations of fish, as well as much of our native flora and fauna, are in a sorry state. Recreational fishing and hunting opportunities are shrinking.”

In his latest book, “Confessions of a Washington State Game Warden: An Insider Tells All,” (2020, Amazon) Haw says, “WDFW’s recreational fishing regulations pamphlet is best described as an oversized catalog of largely useless and misleading information. Courts don’t take our cases because of this publication. Our ability to prosecute violators is limited. This publication is used by defendants to beat charges.”

This, from a man who dedicated his life to enforcing the fishing laws.

How could such a disastrous collection of unenforceable laws be allowed to grow larger every year?

Go back and read the beginning of this column.

It’s enough to give you sympathy for the fish cop.

Don’t Get Lost.

Who says there is no good news these days?

A lost backpacker was found after four days by search and rescue teams made up of Olympic Mountain Rescue and Tacoma Mountain Rescue volunteers, National Park Service personnel, Washington State Search and Rescue Planning Unit and the Coast Guard helicopter crew that airlifted him to an Olympia hospital.

The search was conducted in the rugged high country, up the south fork of the Quinault River through an end-of-summer storm that brought high winds, lightning and 4 inches of rain.

Just camping in a monsoon like that can be a challenge, even if you have a blazing campfire burning.

While details have not emerged as to how the backpacker got lost, it’s easy to imagine how you can get turned around while hiking on a trail.

I blame the elk. Their trails look remarkably similar to the ones humans make.

Some elk trails have been carved into the landscape by centuries of seasonal migration from the high country to the lowlands and back again.

It’s easy to get confused between an elk trail and a man-made path, but elk trails all have one thing in common. They seem to disappear when you least expect it, leaving you somewhere in the woods with no idea how you got there.

Getting lost in the woods is a proud American tradition that goes back to before the days of Daniel Boone, who said, “I have never been lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.”

Back in the days of Daniel Boone, it was much easier to get lost in the wilderness since there was so much more wilderness to get lost in.

These days, there are more and more people getting lost in the wilderness, since there are so many more people.

The sad thing is that almost every year there are people who are lost and never found.

Jacob Gray disappeared on April 4, 2017, leaving his bicycle along the side of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, causing a massive search effort that covered hundreds of square miles. They found Gray’s remains Aug. 10, 2018 — 15 miles away at Hoh Lake.

How he crossed the Sol Duc and Bogachiel rivers and the many rain-swollen tributaries during a stretch of nasty wind and rain to get 5,000 feet up into avalanche country remains a mystery, and a lesson to us all.

With the autumn rains, we’re entering what is arguably the best time of year to get lost in the woods — mushroom season.

You walk through the brush with your eyes focused on the ground as you scurry from one mushroom to the other like a kid on an Easter egg hunt, until you realize you have no idea where you came from or how to get back.

None of that matters now as you see more mushrooms just over the hill and down the little gully where you cannot believe your eyes. You had no idea there could be this many mushrooms left on earth!

The mushroom fever has you in its grip. You are hopelessly lost. You try to retrace your steps, but the forest looks the same in every direction. As darkness descends, you walk faster in what you are sure is the wrong direction.

The best tip I can give to not get lost picking mushrooms is, don’t go mushroom picking.

If that doesn’t work for you, tell someone where you are going, when you’ll be back, and pack the 10 essentials for wilderness travel. Don’t get lost and make someone look for you.

Disaster Preparedness Month.

By now we’ve all about had it up to here with the nanny-state government telling us what to do. The last I heard, this was still a free country where we have the right to pursue happiness, whatever that means. For me, it means doing whatever the heck I want to preserve my precious freedom.

Then, I heard that September was declared to be “National Disaster Preparedness” month. Now, there’s a government program I could really get behind.

Into each life, a little rain must fall. That’s where disaster preparedness comes in. It can be something simple like checking the batteries in your smoke detector or getting one of those disaster preparedness kits they’re always harping about. You know, the kits with food, blankets, water, flashlights and a radio and stuff. Or you can take on a more substantial project to get ready. This month, in honor of Disaster Preparedness month, I rearranged my sock drawer.

There are, however, other steps we can take to prepare for the disasters that seem to be headed our way more frequently with each passing year.

• Stay calm. Don’t panic. Experts are always telling us to stay calm and not to panic when we are facing everything from murder hornets to the Internal Revenue Service. This is probably because they’ve never been faced with these threats. It’s easy for experts not to panic, but it’s bad advice. I say panic early and often. It’s never too early to panic. Practice panicking now before the disaster hits, so you get it out of your system when the real trouble hits the fan. Maybe you’ll panic enough to get a generator. Don’t forget the fuel.

• Migrate. Millions of birds are beginning their migration down our Pacific Coast from the Arctic tundra to the tropics. Get a clue. If these dumb animals have sense enough to figure out that moving to a more civilized climate is a good idea in the winter, what is your problem? One of the best ways to avoid a disaster here is to leave home and head south. Problem solved.

• Bulk up. Here is another tip we can take from our animal friends. Many of whom are incapable of migrating south. Bears, for example, spend the summer and autumn putting on fat to adapt to the colder winter weather. In addition to the survival benefits of having an increased blubber content, the larger you are, the more likely you will be seen by would-be rescuers when disaster strikes.

• Grow your hair longer. In addition to blubber, many creatures grow a thicker coat of fur in the winter. Longer hair will not only keep you warmer, it will save you money on haircuts.

• Hibernate. Once again, we can take a hint from our animal friends. I’m not saying that everyone can attain a state of true hibernation like our iconic Olympic marmots or members of Congress, but you don’t know until you try.

• Super-size fast food orders. This is a no-brainer. We’ve all seen demonstrations of fast-food morsels locked in glass cases for years with no apparent deterioration. Our modern-day chemicals and food preservatives are not only good, they’re good for you.

• Contact your neighbors. A good neighbor will loan you stuff. Find out what to borrow from your neighbors now, before disaster strikes. By then, it will probably be too late.

These are just a few of the many things you can do for disaster preparedness month besides panicking and rearranging your sock drawer. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.

Fall Chores.

Autumn must be my favorite time of year. When the Olympic Mountains stand so stark and tall in the smoke-free air, they almost seem like they are about to fall over, but they don’t.

Although there’s no time to stand around and admire the view when you have chores to do.

Autumn is the time of harvest. You can’t eat the view, so you’d better get to work.

The fact is, there are not enough hours in the day to get all of the chores done because the days are getting shorter.

Experts tell us not to get stressed out or bogged down by the details of life on the farm.

We should prioritize, delegate and move on to the next chore with the rhythm of the season.

Whatever that means.

I think it means now that the vines have died down, it’s time to dig the potatoes.

There are few things I enjoy more than digging potatoes.

To thrust the shovel into the mellow loam, exposing colorful tubers of varied hues of red, white, blue and yellow. Digging potatoes is a treasure hunt.

I was really looking forward to it.

Until I remembered loaning the shovel to a worthless clam digger.

It was a rare antique that was in really good shape. All of my tools are.

That’s another secret to life on the farm. Don’t use your tool and it won’t wear out.

I could never find a shovel that would fit my hand anyway.

It was time to prioritize, delegate and move on.

It’s time to pick a winter’s supply of apples.

An old apple farmer told me that once the coyotes started eating the apples, they were ready to pick. Lately there’s been a coyote party in the orchard every night.

People often wonder how the coyotes pick apples. They don’t.

The coyotes get the apples laying on the ground that the bear knocked out of the tree.

It turns out the bears figured out the apples were ripe before I did.

They must have camped out in the trees for a few nights and ate themselves sick, if the mess around the trees was any indication.

People said I should shoot the bear and tan the hide. Like I need another chore.

I tried to tan a hide once, using the old Indian cure that involved a greasy mixture of brains to do the trick.

It turns out that tanning a hide and writing a newspaper column have a lot in common. I ran out of brains before it was half done.

Besides, the bears have obviously read the hunting laws.

That’s why they never emerge from the blackberry tangles until at least a minute and a half after legal shooting light.

It was just another case of “if you snooze, you lose.”

All that was left of the apples was a few half-eaten ones that neither the bears nor the coyotes wanted.

It was a tragic end to another struggle to survive in the wilderness.

What could I do but prioritize, delegate and move on?

Autumn is also a good time to stock up on firewood.

Stacking firewood is another one of my favorite chores. But you have to cut and split the firewood before you can stack it.

That’s why it was too bad that I could not get the chainsaw started.

I was burning daylight. It was time to prioritize, delegate and move on.

That’s life in the wilderness.

We work through the rhythm of the seasons until salmon season starts — when, if any chore isn’t done by then, it won’t get done.

Labor Day Appreciation

Dealing with the crush of vacationing hordes that invaded the Olympic Peninsula this summer has stressed the tourist infrastructure to the breaking point. The problem is, many of our tourists have unrealistic expectations about their vacations. As a general rule, we like to advise tourists that the sooner they realize that their expectations are unrealistic, the better.

For example, every tourist wants to see a bear. And who doesn’t?

Unless you saw a bear like I did this summer. It was as big as a cow and cut right in front of me out on U.S. Highway 101 without even signaling. It could have been a disaster! Bears have no insurance. Bears, like most of our other wild animals, are irresponsible and unreliable. I can’t tell you how many times we have floated by Elk Creek without seeing an elk. That’s just wrong.

We have petitioned the Geographic Board of Names to rename it No-Elk Creek, but we haven’t heard anything back from them yet.

There could be many reasons for this record number of tourists. People were tired of being cooped up due to COVID. The Canadians wouldn’t let us in their country. And who could blame them? We wouldn’t let them into our country. Americans were trapped here so they decided to hit the road in everything from rental cars to the largest recreational vehicles on Earth.

There are only so many campsites and parking spots, and once these were taken, the tourists fanned out through the hinterland, blocking logging roads and boat launches with their fire rings and questionable bathroom habits.

Floating tourists down a river in a raft gives one a bird’s-eye lowdown on the tourist problem. I hear the horror stories. Like waiting for an hour for a hamburger only to wait for another hour to complain that you ordered it with no cheese. Or waiting hours to get into Olympic National Park only to have the park shut down because of a “law enforcement situation.” All the while trying to find the dump station for their RV before there’s an accident. That’s what it’s all about — creating family vacation memories that will last a lifetime.

Then there is the supply chain fiasco that has interrupted the flow of vital supplies needed for the production of apple fritters in Forks.

The only thing we can count on is the Hoh River, which will flow until the glaciers melt. While it lasts, the Hoh remains the last best river in America. Floating people down it is a rare privilege.

The most notable rafters this summer have been health care workers. They come to the Olympic Peninsula from all of our nation’s COVID hot spots to unwind and try to forget the horror of their working lives.

On the river, they often relax and tell stories of working 24-hour shifts while dealing with dying people they cannot help. They talk of arguing with people who insist they don’t have COVID while they are being intubated. They tell about the patients’ isolation from their families with no chance to say goodbye. They talk of being isolated from their own families and loved ones in an effort to keep them from getting sick. They feel victimized by people blaming them for the pandemic and guilty for feeling like they could do more to stop it. They spill their guts until they cry and so do I.

I can think of no better time than Labor Day to appreciate the selfless actions of these brave people. All of which makes me wish they could see a bear. It’s the least we could do.