More than taxes are spawned by April 15

Is it any coincidence that tax day and the start of trout season occur just two days apart?

By: David Campbell
   Is it any coincidence that tax day and the start of trout season in New Jersey occur just two days apart?
   Or that on the same day hoards of edgy tax filers descended on public libraries and post offices to fill out, photocopy and postmark their last-minute tax forms by Monday’s midnight deadline, a similar drama was playing out on the Delaware River as hoards of edgy shad migrated upriver to lay eggs and die?
   Can a parallel be drawn between the migrations spurred by tax day, when post offices around the country stay open into the night to allow procrastinators to get their tax envelopes stamped with the April 15 postmark, and the spring spawning season?
   At midafternoon in the Princeton post office on Palmer Square, the air was charged with a primeval atmosphere not unlike an episode of "Animal Planet."
   Dozens of procrastinators and extension seekers milled about or stood in a line that wrapped around the room, tax materials in hand, nervously eyeing the distant service window.
   Clearly, an elaborate taxation ritual was under way here. The biological clock was ticking. Nature, indeed, was calling.
   One woman in line said her husband usually made the April 15 tax run himself but said the task fell to her this year.
   The woman, who asked not to be identified — as if this natural drive to file were something to be ashamed of — stressed that technically neither she nor her absent husband, clearly the less evolutionarily viable of the two, was actually a tardy filer.
   "We’re not tardy, we’re on time," the woman insisted as she stole a furtive glance at the window. "We’re only going to be tardy if the post office doesn’t stamp it."
   Up ahead, the postal worker at the window thumped envelopes with the all-important postmark stamp. The line crept forward.
   Ah, nature’s sublime grandeur.
   According to a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, the average suburban post office was expecting upwards of 1,000 last-minute filers Monday night, and around 15,000 in urban postal facilities.
   The spokesman, perhaps unaware of the primitive rhythms that drive postal customers, did not weigh in on the mysterious correlation between spawning fish and the migratory habits of late filers.
   Gov. James E. McGreevey, who helped kick off trout season Saturday with a round of glad-handing at the Pequest Hatchery in Warren County, also was notably silent on the subject.
   Could it be that the same biological imperative that drives fish into a reproductive frenzy around this time every year was at work in those extension seekers who struggled tooth-and-claw for four more months to finagle additional tax deductions?
   Staff at the Princeton Public Library, where piles of tax forms and the copying machines stood at the ready Monday for the after-work mass migrations expected that evening, said they learned the value of preparation from tax days past.
   Elba Barzelatto, the library’s manager of information services, said the library intended to set up a table outside where tax forms would be available after the close of business at 9 p.m., presumably when the tax migrations were at their peak.
   "If people come in running, they can get their extension forms," said Ms. Barzelatto, obviously no stranger to the call of the wild.