Fishing lines: If you want to fish in pyjamas, avoid Chicago

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The Independent Online

Thank goodness none of the family bought me a giraffe. A pet, after all, is not just for Christmas. Never mind the fact that it would have played hell with my fruit trees. It would also have made my seasonal fishing trips that much more difficult.

Thank goodness none of the family bought me a giraffe. A pet, after all, is not just for Christmas. Never mind the fact that it would have played hell with my fruit trees. It would also have made my seasonal fishing trips that much more difficult.

I've always spent a few days of the Christmas holiday fishing. Doesn't matter where; it's just good to get away from turkey sandwiches (though you just know what will be in the lunchbox) and trying to mend flimsily assembled toys. But with a giraffe, I would either have to stay home and look after it, or worse, take it with me.

And if we had decided to spend the holiday in Boise, Idaho, there could have been more problems. Because a city law rules that residents may not fish from a giraffe's back. Me: "Not a lot of giraffes around here." Local: "That's because you can't fish from their backs, boy."

Such thoughts have arisen because my daughter Fleur's favourite present this year is a small book called The World's Stupidest Laws. I don't know how genuine they all are, but many old laws get left on the statute book. That said, you have to wonder when giraffes became such an inconvenience to Boise anglers that the city fathers had to pass a decree banning them. And what caused Chicago to pass a law banning people from fishing from the breakwater in pyjamas?

It's no surprise to find that the American states are toughest on the abuse or exploitation of fish. Under Oklahoma state law, fish cannot be contained in fishbowls while on a public bus. Maybe they just flop around until they reach the right stop.

The caring councillors of Ohio have a law stating that it is illegal to get a fish drunk. An interesting one, that: how do you get a fish drunk? Spike its water with vodka? And why was the law enacted? Was it forced on the lawmakers by gangs of badly behaved fish? Ohio also specifically rules that using explosives when fishing is illegal. Darned unsporting too, and it plays hell with your float or fly.

Several other places clearly have problems with unscrupulous fishermen: in Saskatoon, Canada, it is an offence to try to catch fish with your hands, while in Kansas, the lawbook specifically adds the word "bare" before hands. Obviously it's all right with gloves. Pennsylvania is clearest on the issue, stating: "Fish must not be caught with any body part except the mouth." That would make one hell of a competition: The Penn-sylvania Catching Fish With Your Mouth Championships.

The book includes the Scottish decree that people cannot fish on a Sunday. Not all the laws are so stupid, either: what about Montana's ruling that it is illegal for married women to go fishing alone on Sundays, and illegal for single women to fish alone at all? Good thing too. More room for proper fishers to get their giraffes down to the river.

'The World's Stupidest Laws', Michael O'Mara Books, £3.99



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