HOODSPORT – Skokomish River slob anglers may force the state to shut down salmon fishing on the popular river.
Thousands of salmon anglers flock to this Hood Canal river every August and September to catch one of the earliest chinook salmon runs of the fall.
But a lot – not all, but more than enough – of those anglers are slobs.
They dump their trash, fast-food wrappers, beer cans, monofilment line, lure packaging and worse right along the river.
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They can’t be bothered to walk to the nearby portable toilets, so they defecate and urinate along the river banks.
The Skokomish, a beautiful – and troubled – river, takes on the stench and look of a downtown Skid Row every August and September.
Many anglers refuse to fish the river, because the trash, horrible smell, and frequent breaking of fishing rules turns a day on the water into a horror show.
State Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers recently issued 56 tickets in one day on the river. Anglers were ticketed for keeping more than one salmon, fishing without licenses and even snagging fish.
But a new low, even for the Skokomish, was reached late last week when levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the river forced the state Department of Health to close down shellfish harvest in Annas Bay.
Annas Bay is where the Skokomish River flows into Hood Canal.
The state Department of Health said “human waste from sport fishers” was why the shellfish beds, owned by the Skokomish Tribe, must be closed.
I stopped by the river on Friday, and the stench was clear before I even stepped out of my car.
I don’t fish this section of the Skokomish River from the mouth to the U.S. Highway 101 bridge. There are too many anglers, too many slobs and too much garbage to stomach. Waves of bright, gorgeous chinook salmon finning into the deeper holes can’t even tempt me, and many other ethical, clean anglers, to the river.
That river, and that fairly few number of slob anglers, embarrass me. They anger me, and they make me ashamed to be an angler. We anglers have led the way for environmental conservation in the United States for decades, but a few slobs wreck all of our reputations.
The Skokomish Tribe is furious. The tribe wants:
• An immediate closure of the popular sport salmon fishery.
• Clean up of human waste and garbage from the riverbank.
• A public education campaign before the fishery is reopened.
• More trash containers and portable toilets along the river.
• More Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers on the river.
I don’t blame the tribe one bit.
How would you feel if a bunch of people showed up in your neighborhood and started using your garden as a toilet, scattered trash all over the place and forced the state to close down your business?
The slob anglers of the Skokomish have been allowed to bully law-abiding anglers and pollute a beautiful spot for far too long.
Fish and Wildlife is placing more Dumpsters and portable toilets along the river, and putting up signs warning anglers that the fishery is in jeopardy.
“We’re telling the public that we need their cooperation to keep the Skokomish River open to fishing,” Jim Scott, assistant director of the fish program, said in a press release.
I hope this works, but I’m worried that years of bad habits on the Skok will be hard to break.
Maybe it’s time to put an enforcement officer on the river full-time during the late-summer chinook season. Anglers could buy a Skokomish River use stamp to pay for the officer’s time.
This problem has to end. It’s time that the slobs were sent packing, and let the vast majority of ethical anglers enjoy the river.
As for now, anglers are drowning in their own squalor and putting a river and their own sport at risk.
Chester Allen: 360-754-4226