Upon entering a new state, one of the first things that we do is stop at a local fishing outfitter for a regulations book, get licenses, and ask about what flies or bait to use in the river that we will be fishing in. When the nice young man behind the counter handed me the regulations book, I almost gasped. I have not seen a book like this since I used a telephone book which was along time ago. (Thank You Interweb) Most states have a 3 page brochure outlining what is in season and what the limit is for volume and length. Not Washington. They have different regulations for every body of water in the state and for every species and sub species of fish that our good lord created. So fast forward to the Dalles Campground in Mount Rainier which backs up to the White River. We got here a little later than expected and did not really have the energy to hike or explore. However the river ran right behind our site and fishing is always a good way to unwind from a day on the road. Colby, Hunter and I grabbed our rods and headed for the river. Colby was running a spinning lure, I had some fish eggs on a bobber, and Hunter was fly fishing. We had the whole river to ourselves. Within 10 minutes each of us had a hit, but none of us were able to land a fish. At about the 35 minute mark it happened, I had a big fish on the line. A really big fish! This thing fought like a shark. It took me at least five minutes to get it to the shore. As my line retreated to the reel I could see that I had a salmon. Probably in the neighborhood of 10 lbs or so. I was so psyched to finally land a fish on this trip. I dragged it onto the shore and promptly asked my fish expert (Hunter) if this was a Coho Salmon or a Sockeye. After a brief inspection he told me that it was in fact a Sockeye and we were good to go. I grabbed a rock from the shore and dispatched our dinner in one swift blow. High fives were flying everywhere. As we hiked from the river we were confronted by a Washington State Fish and Wildlife Warden who apparently was watching me as we caught our prize fish. He asked if he could see our license and weigh our fish. No problem. The fish was huge and my license was good. After he got done with the formalities, he informed me that we had a problem. He said that the fish that I had just dispatched was neither a Coho Salmon or a Sockeye Salmon, but was in fact a Speckled Salmon which is endangered. I am no salmon expert but my eldest son Hunter is and if he said that it was a Sockeye Salmon…I believe him. Hunter has been into fish and wildlife since he was four years old. He is 18 now and a Junior in college where he majors in biology. Believe me when I say this kid knows his stuff. There was however no arguing with this ranger. He was young, eager, and dead set on busting me. He told me that the fine for catching and not releasing an endangered fish was $800! He wrote me a ticket and insisted on following me to my campsite where he recorded my license plate number just in case I tried to flee to Canada or Mexico. He told me that I had to appear in court on Friday to either pay the fine or argue my case to the judge. Court? What court? It turn out that there is a fish and wildlife court in Enumclaw, which deals with matters such as this. Enumclaw is the closest town to where we were camping, but still an hour of our out of way, but $800 is a lot of money! We retreated to the motorhome to discuss our options. FYI to add insult to injury, our dinner was confiscated. Once Ranger Rick was gone, Hunter burst into a tirade, he insisted that the fish was a sockeye salmon and pulled up various pics from the internet to prove it. It certainly looked like my fish. He noted the hook on the dorsal fin that differentiated it from the Speckled Salmon and the brown lips that were only found on Sockeye. He was sure! We discussed our options and decided we would delay our trip to Olympic National Park and have our day in court. It was during this night that Hunter asked for something that at the time I thought nothing of. You see our camper is stocked with all sorts of board games and old toys from when the kids were little. One of the old toys we had was a Junior Detective kit that the kids played with when they were young. This is what Hunter was looking for and he did eventually find it stowed away under our bed. Hunter is always trying to build something from old broken things so I figured that is what he must have been up to with this old toy. Anyway, on Friday morning we headed to Fish Court in Enumclaw. When we entered the one room courthouse I immediately asked to talk to the clerk. I have a lot experience in courtrooms and this is the guy who knows everything. The clerk who told me that we had the option of hiring a lawyer or representing ourselves. However he did not recommend representing ourselves. He explained that there was a lawyer in town named Saul McGill who specialized in this sort of thing and charged a flat rate of $300 for cases like this. Apparently there are a lot of tourists that end up in this situation. Without actually saying it the clerk basically said that if I hired Mr. McGill he would make this all go away very quickly by pleading the dumb tourist defense. So what to do? Guarantee losing $300 to save $500? Hunter protested and said that this was ridiculous. We did nothing wrong and he would prove it! Faced with a $300 lawyer bill and a possible $800 fine, I choose to let Hunter argue our case. As you can imagine, Fish Court is not a very busy place. So we were first on the docket when the Judge took the bench at 9 am. The prosecutor in the case was not an attorney, but the very same ranger who busted us. Hunter grinned at me as he stood before the podium. I did not know that my 18 year old son had this in him, but apparently he has been waiting his whole life for the chance to fight against the system. As the judge took the bench in his jeans and T Shirt, he asked if we were sure that we did not want an attorney. Hunter confidently explained to the judge that he would be representing his father in this matter, which is an outrage to all fishermen in the great state of Washington. The judge nodded and accepted the fact that we were on our own with Dougey Houser as our only representation. The fish and wildlife guy went first. He explained to the judge what he had witnessed and that we had without a doubt killed an endangered species. Hunter stood confidently waiting his turn. When Ranger Rick was done with his accusations, Hunter stood up and introduced himself to the court and explained our side of the case. He told the court that the fish was of legal size and species. The judge asked Hunter why he believes that he is more qualified than a professional fish and wildlife warden to identify a species of fish. Hunter politely told the judge that he was right. The fish and wildlife warden should certainly be able to correctly identify a fish more accurately than an 18 year old college student, but for some reason this particular warden could not and he would prove it. The judge was beginning to get annoyed. He asked how he intended to prove this claim. And this is where it got interesting. Hunter asked the court for permission to question Ranger Rick and it was promptly granted as he was in fact our accuser. Hunter asked the warden how many different species of Salmon that he was familiar with? What was his formal training? How many times had you showered between 3PM on Wednesday and today? Say what? Kristi, Colby and I looked at each other like “Oh God! Not Now” We had all assumed Hunter would eventually crack from the enormous pressure that he puts on himself, but did it have to happen now right in the middle of the trial of the century? He must have cracked. Why else is he asking Ranger Rick about his showering habits? But I digress. Ranger Rick was eventually forced by the court into answering the question. Apparently he is a pretty clean guy as he took three showers between Saturday and this morning. It was at this point that he looked back at the judge and asked permission to question me! This too was granted. I stood before my son and he had but one question for me. Mr. Goldsmith, how many times have you showered between Wednesday at 3PM and today? Well, I won this one because I had in fact showered four times. Hiking, fishing and camping gets a man very dirty! Done with me, Hunter turned his attention back to the Judge. At this point my whole family other than Hunter was pretty sure that I was going to fish jail and Hunter was probably going to be sent for a court mandated psychological assessment. And then it got worse. Hunter addressed the Judge and asked if he could have Mr Goldsmith and Ranger Rick put their hands high above their heads while the lights were shut off in the courtroom. He begged the court to humor him as this would only take 30 seconds and would in fact prove that Mr. Goldsmith did not catch nor kill and endangered species. Well heck, everyone in that court room was curious now. Even the judge was intrigued enough to allow it. The judge ordered the lights off and asked myself and Ranger Rick to stand with our hands high in the air. As the lights were turned off Hunter reached into his back pocket and pulled out the black light that he had found in the detective kit. He flipped it on and pointed it and Ranger Rick and I. The courtroom gasped in unison. My hands and Ranger Rick’s were glowing a bright green color! What the What just happened. The lights were turned back on and Hunter began to explain to the courtroom that during the spawning season which is now, Sockeye Salmon excrete a bioluminescent protein from there skin. It is completely unique feature that are only found in this particular species of Salmon. In the right conditions during the mating season, the rivers that contain these fish appear to glow slightly. The effect is only magnified by using a black light. This protein has the ability to permeate the skin of any person who comes in contact with it and the effects last up to a week. Hunter admitted to the court that he was not sure what effect multiple showers would have on the protein, but apparently it is pretty resilient stuff. Jaw on Floor! Not only had my son not had a psychic break with reality, but he saved me from Fish Jail or at least a big fish fine. The Judge asked Ranger Rick if what Hunter had said was true and he had no choice but to admit it to be a natural fact. He asked the court to withdraw the summons and recommended that we go free. The court concurred and we marched confidently and proudly out of Enumclaw Fish Court with the best damn fish lawyer in the world!
Later that night we attended a midnight wedding between Sasquatch and his human bride right in our campground. It was a very strange day.