Haw Is Power Behind Fishing Throne

Frank Haw 1979
The (Peninsula) Daily News – June 26, 1979 Peninsula Outdoors
by Jeff Singer

The Washington State Department of Fisheries, like most government agencies, resembles a small kingdom. The present king of the department is Gordon Sandison, a Port Angeles politician and insurance agent. The position he occupies is a political appointment by the governor. The person who is king is changed occasionally.

The real power in the Department of Fisheries, however, is the deputy director. He is a career person who usually works his way up the ranks of the department. The deputy director has the opportunity to work with many kings who come and go. For all practical purposes, the power behind the throne is Frank Haw, a personable, middle-aged biologist.

Haw first came to public notice a few years back when he completed an enviable project paid for by public funds. This job consisted of trolling all around Puget Sound with sport fishing tackle. This project was an attempt to help novice anglers in their quest to catch salmon and to get an idea of the local feeding populations of salmon.

Some of the results of the project were published in the Washington Saltwater Fishing Guide. Frank Haw, at the time, made the statement that the most efficient tackle to use for salmon in the Washington waters was very heavy trolling gear which featured a monstrous flasher of the Abe’n Al type. For weight, Haw suggested anything from eight to 24 ounces of lead

Haw, in the same article, also said the method was very sporting and you can feel the smallest piece of kelp if you should snag one. No mention was made though of the loss of young salmon which this method produces.

So, when I had the opportunity to fish alongside of Haw, I looked in his well-equipped, sports fishing boat. Much to my surprise there wasn’t a trolling rod or flasher to be seen. Instead, in racks on the side of his boat were nice light outfits of the type favored by moochers and drifters.

Haw appears not to take his own advice. But many anglers remember their own first attempts in catching salmon. In my own case, I, too, used to own and fish with flashers and dodgers of many sizes. But, most of us, like Haw, changed to mooching when we learned some of the skills necessary to use this method.

Now Haw has come up with some more advice from his lofty position. "Do away with wild salmon runs. Replace them with hatcheries to produce the fish which would put Puget Sound on the map."

It’s interesting to note that both Oregon and California have also tried this method on some of their streams. A fish barrier is erected at the hatcheries and all upstream migration is stopped. At some hatcheries an electric barrier was tried. The migrating fish received an electric shock which was quite effective in stopping migration.

In Oregon these methods were tried without public notification. In some cases, concerned sportsmen were able to force the department into constructing fish ladders at the barriers but not before some damage was done. It’s a sad fact that even though the Department of Fisheries is a public agency, the people inside the department tend to forget this or to work around it.

Good Example
A good example of this thinking is the Talley bill recently filed in the Senate. The bill suggested revamping the Department of Fisheries leadership which certainly has some merit. The method provided in the bill was to set up a nine-member Fisheries Commission to set policy and to appoint the director who would run the day-to-day operations of the department.

The appointees for the commission would be picked by the governor and serve a term of four years. The names of the nominees would come from a list of not less than three names submitted by each of the following groups: the Puget Sound Gillnetters Association, the Puget Sound Purse Seiners Association, the Columbia River Gillnetters Association, the Willapa or Grays Harbor Gillnetters Associations, the Offshore Trollers Association and charter boat operators.

As I read the list of groups which would in effect run the Department of Fisheries, I was surprised and horrified to notice that they all were commercial fisherman organizations. The closest they came to sports anglers was the charter boat operators and that’s not too close. How this managed to slip by the millions of sports salmon anglers is beyond me.

The (Peninsula Daily) News June 27, 1979
Letters to Editor
Fish in Fields

Now is the time for Jeff Singer to start writing the truth.

Several articles back he was on trapping and going to report on his research. He struck out on that one.

Now he is on spring Chinook in the Dungeness; blames the lack of water on irrigation ditches.

Less water in ditches today, Mr. Singer, than anytime in past years. Also, lack of screens allows young fish to be flushed out into fields. I can’t find any fish in my fields anytime.

Just so you won’t have to research this one, Mr. Singer, the ditches are all screened, designed by Department of Fisheries. Ditches are watched by Department of Ecology, Fisheries Department and Game Department.

Come now, Singer, quit trying to brainwash the public. The truth in your articles or no articles.

David M. Cameron
Route 7, Box 207, Sequim.

The (Peninsula Daily) News July 3, 1979
Peninsula Outdoors
Part II – Hatcheries Should Augment Runs
by Jeff Singer

The reasons behind Frank Haw’s new proposed salmon plan are easy to see. Foremost is the fact that the Washington salmon populations are at their lowest ebb.

The federal government is just finishing a survey of the problem. It is ready to spend a lot of money in the state to improve salmon runs. A portion of this federal money is going to be funneled through the Department of Fisheries. This department is basically a group of hatcheries. Hatcheries are much like heroin; once you get started with them, it’s hard to give them up.

The hatchery men like their jobs and like most of us, they have bills to pay, kids in school, etc. Therefore, the last people to say anything negative about hatcheries are the hatchery men. So, Frank Haw, faced with the prospects of this big fish money, has opted to push for more hatcheries as the answer.

A lot of people feel otherwise. Even Haw himself once told me that he prefers wild fish and natural spawning. In his next sentence, however, he named most of the rivers in Washington as sites for his expanded hatchery system.

I, and other people I respect, feel that hatcheries are temporary tools to be used to rebuild depleted runs. There might be a need for hatcheries, in rare cases, to augment natural runs. But the main faith is in nature and in the fish themselves rasher then in man’s efforts.

It’s interesting and perhaps ironic that Haw has to clear his plan with the Indians first. Many sportsmen who have been cussing Indians and their nets could soon be thanking them. Most Indians I’ve talked to or read about seem to have a deep commitment to wild, native, fish.

Rather than hatcheries, the focus should be on each stream as a separate entity, each with its own unique problems and solutions.

I hope that we will eventually move away from great blanket statements and rules concerning fisheries. My own feeling is that rather than keep one wild fish from its ancestral spawning grounds, I’d prefer to dethrone some tame biologists instead.

In response to Mr. D. Cameron’s letter in The Daily News June 27.

To Mr. Cameron, farmer and friend of trappers: To get one misconception straight, the biggest loss of fish I spoke of was in the past before the screens were installed. I am presently questioning the efficiency of the screen system.

As for the "truth" you spoke of, try these facts:

Fact: February, 1977, found me knee deep in an irrigation ditch on the Sequim Prairie. I was part of a crew widening the ditch. The water in the ditch was lowered to make our work a little easier. I was involved with three to five miles of the ditch.

There, were fish wherever there was a bend or deep spot or other shelter. The majority of the fish were salmon fingerlings. There were also a few cutthroat, six to eight inches long.

Fact: One kid on the crew had been raised near the ditches and had fished them as a child. He reported catching trout to 12 inches and this was in ditches that were screened.

When I worked the ditch, there weren’t hundreds of fingerlings but rather eight or ten at each favorable spot My own feeling is that during high water, there must be a way for some fish to get by the screens. It might pay to have one of these many agencies you mentioned check the screens during high water. With the salmon at such a low ebb, every fingerling is important.

Fact: It was a balmy evening early this spring. I was visiting an acquaintance near Agnew. In his front yard was a pond fed by an irrigation ditch in the Agnew system. The water in his ditches comes from McDonnell Creek.

I noted some small fish rising "Did you plant same trout?" I asked my host. "No" he replied. "Those are salmon fingerlings which come down the ditch"

So Mr. Cameron, whether you like it or wt. there are baby salmon and trout in the ditches right now. I know that the irrigation water is your life blood and you are overly sensitive about it. But the truth plays no favorites.

As for less water in the ditches, you need merely look at the expanding human population in your area for an answer. Every new well will make some difference in the water level. It doesn’t take an expert to look at the bed of the Dungeness River to see how much water was in the river at one time. It now flows in a small fraction of its original bed.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why Frank Haw picked the Dungeness River as one of the rivers where he would kill the native runs and strictly raise hatchery fish. The demand for Dungeness water is not expected to lessen in the near future.

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