I went to the Quilcene on Saturday morning and will never go back. The entire stretch I fished from 101 down a couple miles was pocked with snaggers and unfriendly locals. I fished the deepest pools I could find on the low river for 5 hours. I fished mostly spoons and spinners, and lost the two fish I had on at the bank as I tried to tail them.
During this time I witnessed a horrifying poop-show of flagrant regulation violations, courtesy, sportsmanship, and ethics. I watched a kid wade waist deep into the middle of the pool I was casting into and slap his line across mine in an effort to snag the fish I was trying to get interested in my legal offering. I gave him a little lecture, and even let him trade off “casts” with me. It was surreal agreeing to share the hole with a snagger, but I figured this was the way he was taught to fish, and figured one lesson in taking turns might be enough to get him started on the road to proper fishing. Turns out he needs a lot more help than I can give him. As I was hiking out and way upstream, my buddy spotted him on the bank and said,”Looks like our friend has his limit on” We waited and watched to see where he hooked it and sure enough he’s got the belly hooked Coho on shore. Before I can ponder if he’s gonna let it go or not, he takes a river rock and bonks it. Horrifying. I yelled from the trail, “You can only keep fish hooked in the mouth!!” and he gave me a sheepish look. There was a guy fishing with his kid right there too, watching the whole thing.
I also got to see two guys stand in four inches of water for almost two hours destroying fish after fish with their “Quilcene set-up”. They whipped those fish in ankle deep water, pulling up over a dozen on to the bank until they were happy with four that were big enough to keep. At one point one of them shouted to me as he realized he had a native, non-clipped fish on his string, “Hey man, do you know if I can keep a native?”, I said I doubted it, and he took the dead fish off the string, threw it into the water, and said, “Sweet! I can get another then!”…and back to snagging he went. In the many schools I watched go by me on what should have been an epic day, dozens were suffering from fresh wounds; whole fins pulled off, tails and bellies with huge pink chunks taken out. I tried not to think of all the other snaggers downstream of me beyond the bend that I couldn’t see.
My final impression of Quilcene was the final straw as I when was hiking out I noticed a man and his daughter crossing the highway to the hatchery lot with four Coho on a stick. I proceeded to my car and changed and said my goodbyes to my friend. Pulling out of the lot I noticed the same man and daughter heading back down to fish some more. I rolled down my window and asked him if he caught his limit? He nervously said yes. I asked him why he was fishing some more and he pointed to his daughter and said, ‘We’re going to get hers.” She was maybe 6 years old and definitely wasn’t carrying a fishing rod.
This river needs to be closed if WDFW can’t enforce it. I called the poaching hotline and then 911 as I was leaving to report what I saw and see if they could get an officer into the lot to at least check people’s catches. I reported a description of the man I saw with this daughter and the license plate of the kid who I saw bonk the belly-hooked fish. It was his mother’s car. She was hiking with him all day and helped him get his waders off in the parking lot. The volume of violations I saw and the large geographical area that they covered was heartbreaking. It seemed that the entire fishing culture of the river revolved around a fishing method that was illegal and…not really fishing. I saw multiple generations of people using this same set-up and I can’t help but think that the locals were unfriendly because we probably looked out of place with the flashy spoons on our casting rods and the BC floats on the float rods. We were likely considered to be undercover WDFW ourselves.
Close the Quilcene to fishing. Keep the hatchery operating. It’s a beautiful river with an amazing run that is being destroyed by an accepted culture of snagging that is being passed down to younger generations and that is seemingly ignored by those assigned to protect it.
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