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Get That Boat Afloat!

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Get That Boat Afloat!

Summer is here and it's time to get out on the water

Summer lives eternally in the taste of a just-picked, vine-ripe tomato; the cool feel of water-packed sand shifting under your bare feet; the smell of cut grass; the sound of waves lapping against the hull of a boat. Each finds their way into the very cells of your body, there to be recalled at a moment’s notice and each capable of transporting you into a moment of Zen.

That is, if you pick and eat the tomato, if you walk on the beach, if you’re near a freshly cut lawn and if you manage to get out on the water in a boat.

That last has been a bit difficult for people this year. First, it was the winter that never ended, the rain and cold that made a good book by a cozy fire seem the most attractive occupation on earth. And then came flood season; massive amounts of water drowning the lake, making streams and rivers flow at what seemed the speed of light and filling the waterways with so much debris going out in the water meant a slow crawl to nowhere.

The recession didn’t help either, or, as some economists have taken to calling it, the “Little Depression,” and its recovery on Wall Street that somehow turned off before it reached Main Street. For real people, the rank and file who eat and pay a mortgage and send their kids to college, uncertainty about spending money on anything more than the bare necessities, or even not having extra money to spend at all, has kept many off the water, making a lake that rarely looks crowded look even emptier than normal. Lake Pend Oreille is lonely for boats.

“Three years of recession and then the coldest spring on record—it didn’t help,” said Pam Auletta of Hope Marine Services of the impacts this year on local businesses, and those are words that echo throughout businesses all along the shoreline.

A long Indian summer could go some way toward making that up, of course, and on the last day of July, being out on the lake was everything you might want it to be. Perfect weather, perfect views... the only thing that seemed to be missing, at least on that day and on my boat, was the fish. The big fish, that is.

“That’s why they call it fishing and not catching,” my daughter Misty explained when I suggested that my camera would appreciate it if she and her partner, Brian, would catch some slightly bigger fish.

I wasn’t fishing myself as I don’t have a fishing license—and I would remind those of you who’d like to dip a line in the water that obtaining that license is a necessity, unless you’re under the age of 14. My friend and fellow River Journal writer Matt Haag, who is an Idaho game warden and therefore should know, tells me the penalty for a first offense of fishing without a license is getting your hand cut off. I know, I know, that seems a bit of a stiff penalty, but in its defense, it really cuts down on the repeat offenders.

Okay, that was a lie. They don’t really cut off your hand for fishing without a license, and Matt didn’t even tell me that (sorry, Matt) but when it comes to fishing without a license, you really don’t want to go there. There’s big fines, and you can lose your ability to hunt or fish in the state for up to three years. And why would you not get a fishing license anyway? The fees generated from licenses (and fines) go right back into protecting and managing our fishery, so that there’s fish for you to catch. Step number one—go out and get your license.

Step number two is to go out and get a copy of the rule books. There’s one for fishing, so you don’t accidentally take home and fry up an endangered Bull Trout or kokanee salmon or even worse, throw back one of the lake trout that earn you a bounty of up to $15 for each fish, as long as you take the head in. (Which is hard to do if you threw it back in the lake.) To find out which fish are covered under the angler incentive program, and how much you can get, visit the Fish and Game website online (http://tinyurl.com/3l95af6) or stop and pick up one of the rule books, which are available in just about every business that’s related to fishing and a whole bunch more that are not. 

Also get your rule book for boating, because there’s things you need to comply with there as well (learn more here: http://tinyurl.com/3jam4du). For example, you need to have a life jacket (or personal floatation device) for each person in the boat, and they don’t count if they’re in the closet at home. You also need fire extinguishers, flame arrestors, ventilation systems, mufflers, sound makers and distress signals, not to mention lights if you’re boating at night, and flags if you’re pulling skiers or tubers. 

You also need an invasive species sticker, not just on motorized boats but on canoes and kayaks as well. (Inflatables under ten feet do not require the sticker.) The stickers are available through Idaho Parks and Recreation, and fund mitigation and prevention efforts around invasive aquatic species like quagga mussels. The stickers can be purchased online (http://tinyurl.com/3pdpohq) or at one of 24 different vendors in Bonner County. 

Sergeant Hoskins with the Bonner County Sheriff’s Marine Division would remind boaters the Division provides free boat inspections and free boating safety classes.  He also warns boaters to “be very careful [when boating]. There’s still a lot of debris out there.”

If you’re new to fishing, and find you’re only catching the little ones and prefer to throw them back, my daughter tells me you must first talk sweetly to them, apologize for hooking them, and then give them a little kiss before putting them gently back in the lake. No lie. That’s what you should do.

kiss the fish

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Author info

Landon Otis

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Homepage, Headlines, boating, Lake Pend Oreille, summer, Matt Haag, fishing license, Brian Neitzke, Pam Auletta, Hope Marine Services, Sergeant Hoskins, Bonner County Marine Deputies

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