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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

October 4, 2014 at 8:08 AM

Tony Floor’s Tackle Box filled with salmon fishing goodies

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(Photo courtesy of Tony Floor of Olympia)

Here is Tony Floor’s Tackle Box report for October:

I was stretched out in bed the other morning, around 5 a.m. when I started to write this column in my mind. While October is here, and there is plenty to consider during this month of seasonal change from summer to fall, I’ve decided to dive into a pending changing of the guard at the top position within the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

As most long time readers of this column have learned, I’ve spent nearly half of my life, investing those years into the machinery of this agency. During those 30 years, I worked for nine Directors of the Department which earned me some perspective of the challenges and responsibilities of the job.

That job will be available soon, as current Director Phil Anderson recently announced he would no longer occupy the top position at the agency and move on with life effective the end of this year after seven years at the helm.

Hey! The good news is that the job could be yours for a cool $140,000 a year, with a gorgeous big office overlooking Budd Inlet in Olympia on the 5th floor of the Natural Resource Building. Sound wonderful? Wrong!

While the job carries a certain amount of prestige, it is thankless and controversial. Every decision the Director makes brings a silent nod of approval from those who benefit from the decision but more importantly, triggers a tsunami of manure from those who do not.

As Anderson might suggest, after his tenure in the hot seat, going to work to get whacked, day after day takes its toll. And, that toll is a fundamental reason why Phil Anderson has declared enough is enough. I don’t blame him.

Think about it. The Director of Fish and Wildlife serves at the pleasure of the Fish and Wildlife Commission which sets policy for the agency. Meetings after meetings, the Director is on stage, defending or promoting his or her direction, non-stop. Now apply the responsibility to manage every swinging species of fish and wildlife in our state, for conservation or in many cases, allocation purposes. And while the task of managing for conservation has its own challenges, it is the allocation of harvestable species among user groups who bring their opinions to the Director’s doorstep. Sound like fun? Pass the Rolaids please.

Some of these opinions by users go directly to their legislators who in turn, whack the Director. And if those phone calls don’t get his attention, too often, the agency’s budget is held hostage in the political process. More fun, huh.

In my view, Phil Anderson is super-human. He is on the road every morning around 5 a.m. with Westport in the rear view mirror, headed for Olympia, on a normal day. While he is the skipper of a 1,500 employee agency, he serves on more boards, committees, councils than Barrack Obama. For example, he travels the state, attending meetings governing the management of wolfs, bear, elk, deer and every species of fish and shellfish imaginable. And if all the users of these critters are happy, such as the coastal razor clam fishery, there is very little demand on his schedule.

I’ve known Phil Anderson for nearly 40 years, when I listened to him testify before the Legislature, representing the coastal charter boat fishing community in Westport. He was deliberate, smart, calculating and knowledgeable about the resources he manages. He is the same person today, times nine million.

I’ve also have the privilege to fish next to Phil, on his beloved Monte Carlo, a 50-foot Delta in showroom condition. Not only can Phil fish, he puts the net on a fish faster that you can say “Net it now, Phil.” Boom, in the net and on the deck before you can say “Holy Macaroni, Skipper!”

Anderson chooses to leave the Department on his own terms. Most Directors leave with their head in the hands, or lodged in some other uncomfortable place. But he has had enough and will head for more friendly grounds in Westport, the Gibralter of his life. I wish Phil the best and respect his time and leadership steering the Fish and Wildlife ship. He is a good man.

Fall Fishing Opportunities

As the leaves of spring and summer turn and begin to fall, I like the fishing options for October. First, it’s time to go razor clam digging on the Washington coast. For readers who have not dug razor clams, you are missing tons of fun and super good eats. Do you like calamari? If the answer is yes, you’ll love razor clams.

October also triggers the re-opening of many areas for Dungeness crab. Check in with the Department’s website for your areas of interest as again, many areas will re-open but some will not.

Finally, I like the hat-trick up in north Puget Sound around Pt. No Pt. as taught by my mentor Frank Haw. Late arriving coho salmon, mixed with prime time for saltwater migrating chum salmon and the new crop of immature chinook salmon (blackmouth). These blackmouth represent next year’s king salmon population as it provides the first snap shot of the strength or weakness of those hatchery produced stocks.

I’m staying outdoors in October as there’s plenty to do. See you on the water.

(Tony Floor is the Director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) and a former 30-year veteran of state Fish and Wildlife. NMTA advocates for and promotes recreational boating and fishing in the region.)

 

 

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