This afternoon, when I should have been putting together the final bits of the January 2021 issue of Northwest Sportsman, I instead found myself digging through my wayback file for a January 2013 story.
It was about a ridealong I went on with WDFW Sgt. Rich Phillips on the Skagit Delta, a very interesting day that included:
Yacking with pheasant hunters at an upland release site; Picking up a dead swan and learning about powerline strikes and what’s being done to prevent them; Running the maze of sloughs on the South Fork out onto the bay to check boat-borne waterfowl hunters; Directing resources to deal with 70-plus elk in a farmer’s pasture; Candid assessments of fish and wildlife politics, as well as local mores as they pertain to following the fishing and hunting regulations; Spotting two snowy owls on the delta; And catching three guys on the Farmed Island with a total of 15 too many shotgun shells – punishable by a $250 fine but they received $87 infractions and a talking to instead, a pretty good deal the whole way around.
I came away from the day realizing how preposterously much countryside game wardens have to cover, often far from other officers – state and otherwise – and how much responsibility we’ve heaped on so few.
I don’t know, maybe it’s just a function of the Seattlefication of the outdoors and allowing it to all go to hell, but these dedicated guys and gals aren’t about to give up, though they could sure use a whole lot more help.
Help arrived for some WDFW officers last December, and it’s the subject of a great story this week from Gregory Fitz.
He details how a raft and trail cams that his organization, Wild Steelhead Coalition, donated to WDFW’s coastal detachment has helped target poachers on the sprawling and fish-rich Olympic Peninsula, wrapping it around a floatalong with Sgt. Kit Rosenberger down the Sol Duc this past March.
“Rosenberger’s stories were fascinating and eye-opening,” Fitz writes. “Every section of the river seemed to trigger an anecdote. Some were hilarious: anglers fishing out of season who panicked and threw their rods in the river when approached by Officers … Other stories were far more frustrating. Rosenberger pointed out multiple places where his team had caught, or found evidence, of poachers setting up illegal gill nets at night and killing huge numbers of Salmon and Steelhead. Or places where they’d caught snaggers multiple times … Perhaps most ominously, we also talked about how often poaching must occur undetected for each time the small number of Law Enforcement Officers working on the OP are able to capture greedy offenders.”
To try and help declining wild winter-run stocks meet escapement goals on coastal rivers from Forks to Naselle, state managers instituted rule changes that include no fishing from a floating device, a bait ban, single barbless hook only and other requirements.
To a degree all that penalizes legitimate anglers who are required to release all wild steelhead – which most did even before the Fish and Wildlife Commission banned native retention – and poachers won’t give two hoots anyway.
But scofflaws might start doing so.
Wild Steelhead Coalition is again raising money to get more fish-protecting gear in the hands of Rosenberger and other West End and OlyPen game wardens.
Learn all about the problem, what’s working and what’s needed in Fitz’s story, here.