Anglers protest order preventing them from fishing

SEATTLE — Dozens of boats filled Lake Union, anglers demanding that the governor lift the ban on fishing during his Stay Home, Stay Healthy order.

They say they should be allowed to pursue the sport they have already paid the fees to enjoy.

It was a flotilla of protest, fishers angry that the governor’s order is keeping them from the sport they love.

Craig Bukowski, a Kirkland fisherman, was asked for the best argument to be allowed to fish, since he doesn’t need to fish to eat.

“No,” he said. “That is a valid argument. But that’s not my personal argument. But the bottom line is that it’s legal to do this right here. But if I drop a line in the water, I’m breaking the law.”

Boaters are allowed to be in the water, but not if they fish. They say fishing, by its nature, is a sport of social distance.

“We want to go off on our own,” said Ben Holten, from Wenatchee, who helped organize the protest. “And fishing is, that’s our escape to get away from people, to get away from our job.”

“Our customers are incredibly important to us, and we know the imposition these closures bring,” said Kelly Susewind, the state’s Fish and Wildlife director, in a video posted nearly a month ago.

Susewind explained why he was shutting down fishing and hunting in response to COVID-19.

“We make these decisions to protect you and the communities across Washington state,” said Susewind.

These fishers insist this is a nonpartisan issue. But that didn’t stop GOP challengers eager to replace Jay Inslee from fishing, it must be said, for support among these anglers.

Tim Eyman, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he would handle the pandemic differently.

“I would,” said Eyman. “The biggest thing that I think would be different, if I was governor, is I would welcome people that disagree with me to tell me that I was doing something wrong. And I would listen to those people. I think he seems annoyed that people aren’t just falling in line.”

The governor may give an indication soon whether their message is reeling him.