Softball Season Starts

Kristina Knorr of the Jackasses beats the throw to first baseman Chelsea Nilsen of the Vigilantes during opening night. RW

Hambones on drive for five

By ROBERT WARREN
Nothing says summer like softball, and it’s time to play ball. The ball fields at the school and Seventh Pasture will host the Skagway Co-Ed Softball League throughout the summer.
Commissioner of Softball David Mielke is excited about his second year heading up the league. Once the schedule is complete, and the games get under way, “It pretty much just plays itself” said Mielke.
Nine teams are competing this year, some more experienced than others. The Hambones, who won the championship for the last four years, showed the Shirt Company some fundamentals to work on with their 23-0 shutout Monday on opening night.
Eight games per team are scheduled for the first rotation, with the second rotation to follow. The odd number of teams made it difficult to evenly schedule teams to the old field, which is at the school, and the more desirable new field at Seventh Pasture. Some players are hoping the second rotation will even out the field issues.
“In a perfect world you would get four and four [games at the old and new field], but somebody’s got to play three and five,” said Mielke.
Each team is assigned the task of finding an umpire to officiate their game, which is easy with the likes of Gary Benedetti around. He umps all the games where he is needed in honor of his father.
“My dad was my coach, and he died last year, so I’m just doing it to give back to him,” said Benedetti, who is in Skagway for his second summer.

Fish This!
The Amazing Talking Fish!

By Andrew Cremata

Did you know that fish have lips? They do. Having lips does not mean that you can speak though. So who speaks for the fish?
A short list would include both scientists and animal rights activists who feel as though they speak for fish. When these groups weigh in, commercial and recreational fishermen also have something to say on behalf of the fish.
In my own experience, when people start speaking for those without a voice, they often have an agenda or an angle of their own. Their words, emanating from the mouth of one who cannot speak, inspires more empathy for themselves in the mind of the listener.
What are people saying on behalf of the fish?
A recent study completed by the Royal Society (Britain’s national academy of science) is the cause of some recent controversy. We are going to examine the facts from each interested party’s point-of-view along with some potential “ulterior motives.”
We’ll start with the scientists themselves. Do controversial scientific studies increase funding for more legitimate projects? Let’s see. This recent taxpayer-funded study, of great interest to salty-dogs and landlubbers alike, reveals something that all of have always feared.
Fish feel pain.
Yes it’s true, according to these scientists at least. And who can argue with someone in a white coat that injects bee venom into fish’s lips to evaluate their reaction? You see, this is how mankind has boldly discovered that fish feel pain.
Owing much to Julia Roberts’ purported injecting of collagen into her own kisser for more pouting, sexy lips, science experts inject the bee venom into the lips of the fish with a needle. The fish then rocks back and forth, rubs its lips on the gravel in the tank and refuses to eat. This, they say, proves our finned friends feel pain.
Now I don’t know how painful it was for Julia, but it did give her a sexier mouth, and for a fish seeking a career in Hollywood this is a magnificent achievement. Tinsel-Town hasn’t had an A-list aquatic star since The Starkist Tuna, and who can forget his humiliation and demise from the acting industry over that whole “dolphin-safe” debacle? Once environmentalists expressed their outrage on behalf of dolphins everywhere, Starkist’s career ended up in Davy Jones Locker.
This leads us to our next group, the Animal Activists. These activists have made us more aware of our own potential for waste and this is a good thing. One could say however that activists sometimes latch on to fringe scientific studies in an effort to gain public sympathy and thus more political power.
Animal Activists said these recent findings prove that angling is cruel. “We would encourage anglers to lay down their rods. It’s ridiculous that in 2003 we are still talking about whether fish feel pain – of course they do,” said Dawn Carr of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Does the fact a fish feels pain mean that it is cruel to catch and kill it? The study is said to prove that fish feel pain in their lips, so what if we concentrated on foul hooking this resource in other parts of its body. If you catch and release a trout hooked in the lip it has a 90 percent survival rate but it may feel pain. So should we carry some Ambesol in our tackle box or just try to hook fish somewhere they may not feel it as much, like the eye or the stomach? A fish’s survival rate drops to 50 percent or 40 percent when it is foul-hooked, but at least it didn’t have to feel any pain.
More studies are obviously needed. Where is a study that examines whether a fish feels the pain of being betrayed by its friends, or fired from its job, or separated from its loved ones? Scientists could inject emotional scars right into the heart of the fish to see if stops eating, gains weight, takes up smoking or obtains a prescription to Prozac. Fish could become tortured poets, wear black and really get into vampire movies.
Now that’s just silly, but it may not be as silly as when commercial fisherman start speaking for the fish.
Commercial fishermen claim the historical right to fishing. Their daddies done it, their granddaddies done it and “by-gum I’m-a-gonna do it!” The problem is that when their ancestors practiced the art they had the good sense not to kill off the entire resource. The modern commercial fisherman may use airplane reconnaissance to track a school of fish, making it easy for the boats to encircle the school and catch every last fish including a bunch of sea life he doesn’t even want. This is called “By-catch.”
The modern commercial fisherman struggles to make a decent living. They blame this on farmed fish, Japanese and Canadian fisherman, and of course Animal Activists. However, the blame may lie firmly on their own shoulders. Many state and local governments are wising up, and putting initiatives on the ballot to ban commercial nets. Voter response has been overwhelmingly positive. The truth is that while a few commercial fishermen may benefit from fish as a resource, many more can benefit from the resource without those few commercial fishermen. When the fish are free from the dangers of nets they flourish. This means more recreational fisherman, more fishing charters, more fishing licenses, and more hotel and restaurant reservations. Indeed, the future promise of the resource lies more with tourism than with nets.

Capt. Glenn Mitchell hoists a 29-lb. king caught by Marty Winslow. The charter boats have brought in some big ones this month. AC

Commercial fisherman did not weigh-in on the study about fish feeling pain. Why would they? They simply do not care.
Recreational fishermen certainly do care. “Until we have proper, bona fide evidence, we will never know. It’s supposition,” said Charles Jardine, director of pro-angling group Gone Fishing. “I don’t think the millions of anglers throughout the whole of the world would see themselves as cruel individuals.”
The truth may be that recreational fishermen love their sport and would not give it up even if scientists discovered that refraining from fishing could lead to world peace. I am a recreational fisherman and I have seen many things that my brethren have done that are far worse than inflicting pain. Iíve seen anglers kill “trash-fish” by smashing them into the ground, cutting them open and throwing them back, even hitting them with a hammer. I’ve seen them keep too many fish and end up throwing them in the garbage. I’ve seen them keep undersize fish, ignore slot limits and even take aim at them with a shotgun. This is far worse than inflicting pain. It is a lack of moral character, and a complete lack of respect for the resource.
This type of angler is in the minority. Most anglers love the outdoors, like to pass on the knowledge of fishing to their children, and enjoy the thrill of a fish well played. Most fishermen I know practice catch-and-release, only keeping what they will eat.
Do they care if fish feel pain? I know I care. I debarb my hooks to make releasing the fish easier. When I release a fish I do it carefully, reviving the fish first. If I keep a fish I do not attach it to a stringer to suffer, but rather make one sharp blow behind the eyes with a blunt object to kill it quickly and effectively. I didn’t learn these things on my own, I read and heard about them from anglers that came before me. This is where wisdom generally comes from.
No scientific study can change that wisdom. No one else’s opinion can change that wisdom.
All this controversy and turmoil makes me want to do only one thing. I’ll be fishing. I can’t speak for the fish, but I can speak for myself, if I inflict a little pain along the way I guess that’s just life.