You probably spent the Fourth of July fishing, grilling burgers, maybe firing off some bottle rockets and otherwise celebrating Independence Day.
Three men, however, thought it would be a good time to allegedly steal a bunch of summer Chinook from a Washington hatchery.
According to a WDFW report, Officer Michael McQuoid spotted the trio acting suspiciously near the Wallace Salmon Hatchery west of Gold Bar, and upon contacting them, two ran off.
For good reason — they had allegedly hauled 19 kings out of the holding pond.
The next day another 15 were found hidden in the brush.
Those waters and the hatchery are closed to fishing, and the Wallace is not open for Chinook.
WDFW reports that one of the runners was a “well-known offender” from up Skagit County way. He was picked up by deputies while walking down the highway in his waders.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is “partnering” in the investigation. A WDFW photo shows that a number of the Chinook appear to be wild, based on intact adipose fins.
Salmon anglers enjoyed a good season on the Skykomish, where hatchery kings can be retained from the mouth of the river up to the mouth of the Wallace.
Fortunately, this year’s Chinook returns to the system are decent, with 2,370 back to the hatchery so far, much more than during 2015’s drought-affected return when only 631 had at the same point.
The incident comes from WDFW Director Jim Unsworth’s report last weekend to the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Though it may not be as newsworthy as his previous one, which alleged hundreds of thousands of pounds of overharvest of sea cucumbers, it does contain a couple other cases of note.
A WHOLE DAMN BATCH OF BAD APPLES
While patrolling local Department access sites, officers inspected six individuals fishing. The Officers quickly found out that not a single person had a fishing license. To make matters worse, there wasn’t a single valid driver license between the bunch, although they had two cars parked at the access site. All six individuals had outstanding warrants for their arrest, to include one felony Department of Corrections warrant for escaping community custody. While investigating, another individual drove up to pick up some of the violators (after finding none of the local jails would accept aside from the felony). Officers attempted to obtain the man’s name to check for a valid driver’s license, but the man continued to lie about his identity. When the officer finally obtained his name, he found the subject’s driving privileges had been revoked as a habitual offender. The driver was taken into custody and the car impounded. The man with the felony warrant was booked into jail.
SOME KIND OF “GUIDE”
A Department officer observed three men fishing from a raft near the Sol Duc hatchery. As the officer checked licenses and gear, he asked the men how they all knew each other. The man at the oars said “friends,” while the other two pointed at the guy at the oars and said “guide.” The clients were asked how much the trip cost, and they responded they had paid $100 so far as a deposit. The “friend” jumped in at this point and claimed that it was just for gas. The clients and “friend” were then separated. The clients who were visiting from Texas told the sergeant that their wives had found the guide via his website and had surprised them with a fishing trip. The men possessed two adult hatchery Chinook and one juvenile Chinook. The fish had fresh wounds on their sides consistent with snagged fish. Sergeant Rosenberger asked the men where they had hooked the fish, in the body or the head, and both stated the body. The two men were very surprised when notified that it was unlawful to retain snagged fish, and that they were fishing with an unlicensed guide. The guide was interviewed further and admitted to having a fishing guide’s license the year prior, but had not purchased one for this year. Charges against the guide are forthcoming for guiding without a license, failure to record salmon, and complicity in possessing snagged fish.