Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Fishermen are Sleeping In

On most Thursday mornings, beginning in May and ending sometime mid-summer of each year, a Department of Fish and Game tanker loaded with dozens of squirmy 8 to 14 inch rainbow trout pulls up to a tiny reservoir about an hour’s drive north of Fresno, and sets them free.  Although I’m not sure “free” is an apt description of a trout’s existence in what amounts to an over-sized moss-infested pond, where only the heartiest of carp and a few catfish will survive the blistering heat of the coming August.

So why would the California Dept of Fish and Game do such a thing?  While I’ve yet to explore the economics of trout-planting—although we’re talking government so it wouldn’t be pretty anyway—it obviously has something to do with fishermen.  Those men’s men who—rather than sleeping in like city folk and later visiting the corner grocer to snatch the protein for the evening’s supper—will rise with the roosters, pack their trunks with rods, reels and split-shot sinkers and venture off to test their angling skills (and a fresh jar of glow-in-the-dark bait that smells just like the fish food at the hatchery) on the unwary salmonoids…

It is no doubt in the Department’s best interest, for whatever reason, to cater to the animal spirits of the Central California angler.  To get him out of the recliner and into the sporting goods store to purchase the government-issued license along with all the necessary tackle.  And/or perhaps to send out a game warden to lie in waiting behind a pond-shore bush in hopes of surprising the cheater who skipped the licensing part, and slapping him with a $400 (no kidding) fine.

We’ll call it a staging—an artificial catering to man’s primal urge to bear the wilds, to take the risks necessary to provide for his family.  But, alas, while most vivid on Thursdays, this grand illusion fades by Sunday.  And by the time Wednesday rolls back around, the returning gentleman, now with 6 grandkids in tow—anticipating another day of great fishing—drives away empty-ice-chested, and bewildered, in a very muddy (6 impatient yet playful junior anglers) sedan—indeed uninspired to return. The fact of the matter is a stagnant pond simply cannot sustain the type of fish you and I would bring home for supper.

Now let’s think in terms of fiscal and monetary stimulus.  The economy’s barely moving, and rather than clearing the muck and allowing the flow of fresh current, our “leaders” have been further damming the pond with new regulations and the threat of higher taxes.  It’s like expecting folks to come fishing when the pond is choked with moss and the DFG just doubled the price of a license.  Washington can toss in one-time incentives (Cash for Clunkers, Homebuyers Tax Credits and the like) and the Fed can plant billions a month till the cows come home, but until they pull the garbage (themselves) out of the back end of the pond, the fishermen, I’m afraid, are sleeping in.


  1. There are stupid government activities and smart ones. There are stupid government regulations and smart (or even vital ones that would prevent the "too big to fail" dilemma). Stupid government activities are in large part the result of special interest lobbying (there is a powerful Recreational Fishing Alliance, but it is devoted to saltwater fishing; however, I have no doubt that an aquatic version is pulling the strings of the stupid trout planting).

    The Libertarian Dilemma is this: the weaker we make government, the more it is unable to defend itself from corporate, labor, and other special interests. It becomes a mouthpiece for commerce and a hollow shell of democracy.

  2. The stronger we make government - the greater its influence in the marketplace - the more we inspire cronyism. The smaller we make it - the lesser its influence - the more companies (special interests) are left to fend for themselves - to compete for the affection of their customer, as opposed to the politician. There is no perfect scenario. So in the end I vote for the maximum liberty we can muster. In a truly free market, there would be no such thing as too big to fail.