Cheney Free Press -

By Roger Harnack

Bait jars could send a message to Fish and Wildlife

On the Hot Seat


Last updated 6/11/2020 at 2:02pm

Unintended consequence or bureaucratic power grab?

Given the things being ordered behind locked doors of government offices, I’ll take the latter.

Tonight, March 25, when the clock strikes midnight, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is banning all fishing and boating statewide. This closure comes on the heels of a previous order to ban all camping on publicly owned, state-managed lands.

The closures, Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say, is in keeping with Gov. Jay Inslee’s Monday evening coronavirus-related order that closed businesses and banned gatherings of more than 10 people.

Inslee’s order suggested Washingtonians remain home, but also get outside for a little springtime recreation, albeit at a distance of 6 feet from others.

Apparently those knuckleheads at Fish and Wildlife and Washington State Parks didn’t get the memo on outdoor recreation. And given their decision to close publicly owned lands, boat launches, parks, campgrounds and now waters, it would seem those knuckleheads have never picked up a jar of PowerBait or Pautzke’s and headed out to the lake with the youngsters.

It’s either that or these moves are simply another bureaucratic power grab.

Fish and Wildlife Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham said there’s been an “uptick in outdoor recreation.” Of course there is, Gov. Inslee suggested it, as long as the recreation puts 6 feet between you and others.

And that’s exactly what boating, fishing, hiking and camping does.

When was the last time you pulled out your trusty fly fishing pole or spinning rod and cast while someone was within your bubble? You remember — that was the time you embedded a hook in your fishing partner.

And when was the last time you went camping and invited every Tom, Dick and Harry to join you at your campfire or in your tent. Apparently, that’s what bureaucrats in Olympia do, based on the order.

But the last time I went camping, I enjoyed my fire, my water access (I usually take my Yamaha SuperJet) and my tent without being bothered by the family at the tent next door and yards away.

The same goes for boating, hiking, hunting and most outdoor recreation. Rarely, does anyone enter your 6-foot bubble.

Outdoor recreation is generally a family activity, without interlopers. If your family has been sharing the same living room, bathroom and meals, and hasn’t caught the so-called "Wuhan Flu" coronavirus, your family can certainly enjoy a day or night together fishing, hiking, camping and recreating away from city dwellers.

Sure, outdoor recreationalists may get a little closer together at the launch and trail heads, but they quickly fan out. Take a look at Pampa Pond on state Highway 26 between Washtucna and Colfax.

Several vehicles are parked there every day I travel between our Ritzville Adams County Journal and Whitman County Gazette newspapers. But the families are spread out, with Dad generally teaching his youngsters how to cast, hook and reel ‘em in.

Again, it would seem that the bureaucrats in Fish and Wildlife and even Washington State Parks have never spent family time at the lake, in the woods or at the campfire.

Besides, these orders fail to meet constitutional muster.

For these agencies to close rural and remote public lands and waters, the bureaucrats would have to prove the measures will stop or slow the spread of the virus. I’m confident that’s something Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind and his power-grabbing staff wouldn’t be able to prove.

Susewind is likely banking on the fact that before a fisherman files suit against him and his agency, the coronavirus scare will be over and gone. He’s likely counting on that setting a precedence.

If President Trump actually manages to reopen what Gov. Inslee shut down, he may be right. Fishermen may even forget the bureaucratic over-reach as the lowland lakes season opener comes a couple weeks later on April 25.

But we can’t let the over-reach go without a little reminder to bureaucrats that they are wrong. To that end, I’d like to see fishermen pull out last year’s smelly bait jar, clean and disinfect the outside, and send it to Fish and Wildlife offices as a little reminder that we don’t appreciate their unconstitutional authoritarianism.

And I’ll see you — at a distance, of course — at the fishin’ hole.

— Roger Harnack is the publisher of Free Press Publishing, with nine newspapers and shoppers serving communities in Adams, Lincoln, Spokane and Whitman Counties. Email him at

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.

Phone: 509-235-6184
Twitter: @RogerHarnack


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