Monday, September 10, 2012

That's a wrap, folks! Thanks for reading!

Hello faithful readers,

As I write early into the morning of September 10th, 2012, I am spending my final evening in Newport. On the morrow I will be checking out of my apartment at Hatfield Marine Science Center, moving back to Corvallis and continuing on with the last two weeks of my summer, my education, and my regular life.

I sit here reflecting back on the summer of 2012, and I can't help but think about the great friends and memories that I have made while spending my summer here. In this moment I'd like to dedicate this entire blog post to those people. They include the fantastic family of coworkers I had at the Mid-Coast District Office, and all of the lovely folks I had the pleasure of meeting along the way. You all know who you are, and I wish you the best of tidings into the fall. It has been an absolute pleasure being here, and I will take these experiences forward with me into my career in Fisheries and Wildlife.

The last month has been a bit of a blur. I intended on writing more frequently then I actually did, but when life starts coming at you with opportunities - you tend to spend a little more time away from the computer. That is perfectly fine with me, so I opted to wait and make one final "mega" post. I am going to present another string of photos from my experiences in the last month, and explain as I go. You all know the drill... so sit back, enjoy a tasty beverage, and enjoy some of my final moments as the Mid-Coast District intern.

Of course, to start this blog post off right... I will discuss my first solo fishing trip in the Siletz gorge.

On the Sunday morning of August 5th, I left my apartment at 4:00AM to make the trek up the gorge (as I had done for three days a week all summer) and attempt to catch my first ever steelhead on a solo trip. After escaping the usual morning marine layer that blanketed Newport's sky, I was welcomed entering the Siletz gorge by a gorgeous baby blue sky and an orange rising sun. Making my way up the winding Gorge road an untold number of miles, I play with the idea of where I want to start my morning off. Being up in the gorge on the weekend is a benefit because you essentially have all of the 12.5 miles to fish that you want, providing that you get there early enough to secure your spot. After minutes of deciding, I park my Chevy, gear up and lace up in fishing waders (or as I like to call, the "batsuit"). Using a headlamp, I make my way down the hillside in twilight by strictly following the narrow game trail. I am making my way down to a particular stretch of river that myself and Evan found success in the previous weekend. Adrenaline started flowing through my veins like wildfire, and I knew that today was going to be a special day. I am usually quite ecstatic on my way down to the river, but nothing I had ever felt before could quite compare to this. There was something almost mystical about it, and I was prepared to find out why.

Finding the river at the bottom of the narrow trail, I walk upriver and immediately don my polarized yellow lens sunglasses, hoping to spot some sign of fish presence in the area. The surface of the first slow-moving pool I come across instantly starts reacting. A large adult salmonid, most likely a summer steelhead, boils at the surface, letting his presence be known. My heart starts thumping in my chest uncontrollably, and with the help of my glasses I am able to spot a very large pod of fish, roughly 40 that I could count, maybe more. My hands shaking a bit uncontrollably, I unhook my steelhead jig from the hook eye on my rod and set the depth that I want to start at. I put a tail of a freshly caught sandshrimp onto the hook. On my first cast through the hole, I witness no reaction. Second cast, nothing. Ten casts later, still not a single bite. I start to get a bit frustrated, but I never lose confidence.

It is well known that attempting to catch salmon and steelhead that are holding in slow moving water can be futile. When you target slow moving water, it gives the fish a very long time to look at your presentation. If your presentation is not as perfect as possible, these fish will become weary and will not bite. Even when you think it is absolutely perfect, sometimes it is just not enough. Despite that fact, it does not mean that fish will not bite in slower water. It just means that you have to give the fish EXACTLY what they want. How do you figure out what they want? You need to be versatile, and try as many methods as you possibly can. Switch jig colors. Change the line rating (go from 10lb test leader to 8, or 6, or even 4 if you dare). Try jig and sandshrimp/smaller piece/no shrimp at all. Try a different bait. Try a different lure. The choices are as endless as you can make them. Most people decide to try other faster moving water, which doesn't trouble me one bit. There have been instances where a fish has taken my offering on the very first cast, and some instances where I didn't get a single bite until my 40th cast of the 5th different jig color. That day, it was somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

Around 9:30AM, I could easily still spot the pack, but they were neglecting anything I threw at them. Previously, I stuck to trying jigs that I knew Evan and I had caught fish on in the previous weeks. I finally resorted to trying a jig that I had tied up the night before, using my own materials. The particular jig was made using a 1/8oz orange painted jighead and two purple marabou feathers. A simple design from a very good friend of mine that I had seen him create a good while ago, that he dubbed the "Z-Special". On my first cast through the pack, after resetting my depth and attaching a fresh sandshrimp tail, I see a shadow that had an overwhelming red tone to it dart out from the pack and inhale my jig, sending my bobber a foot below the surface. Still half asleep and a bit dazed from the previous inactivity, my neurons spark at just the right moment and I set a delayed hook into the fish's mouth. Quickly, I adjust my drag a bit weaker to better play the fish. The surface instantly exploded with violent fury as the red rocket started performing a spectacular aerial show, cartwheeling like an Olympic gymnast. One.. two.. three.. four.. after the fifth cartwheel I lost count, watching it barrel roll downstream for its life. Struggling to control my drag, the red fish I now knew to be another lost Sockeye salmon took every advantage it could get, and found a way to spit the hook from its mouth. It was over as quick as it had started, but it was enough to get my blood boiling again.

Without thinking, I instantly throw back in the same spot, not even caring to add another shrimp tail. I see a chrome steelhead lay waiting not ten feet downstream from where my jig enters the river. I quickly adjust my presentation so that the jig will float within inches of its face, and patiently wait. The water is so gin clear, I'm not even looking at my bobber at this point - just the jig as it inches closer and closer to the holding steelhead. I wait... and wait... and wait... and within six inches of the jig floating directly by the fish, I see the steelhead shuffle forward, open and close its mouth repeatedly like chewing a piece of bubblegum, and the orange head of the jig is gone from visible sight. Instantly I snap my wrist upright, and raise the rod over my head. The fish angrily reacts by swimming down into the depths of the pool, and returning to the surface at full speed - launching over six feet out of the water. Setting my drag over and over (feeling paranoid about losing the fish), we take part in a glorious battle for a solid ten minutes - leaving me awed with every spectacular cartwheel and taking as much line as it possibly can every time it makes a reel-screaming run away from the bank. I recognize that I am fighting a hatchery steelhead when it comes close enough to the bank that I can identify its missing adipose fin.

Finally succumbing to its own depleted strength, I get knee-deep into the river and slowly glide the fish towards me and the bank. As it comes within inches of my hand, the fish flips in a perfect 180-degree turn with one last powerful thrust of its tail and makes one more screaming run into the pool. As I turn the fish around one last time, I know that it has run its course. Turning upside down, it glides back towards me and beaches itself between a few rocks on the bank. I grab the fish by the gills and start running up the bank like a crazed madman, getting at least ten feet clear of the shoreline before stopping. The fish is an absolutely gorgeous male summer steelhead, tipping the scale likely around the ten pound mark. I stand there for a moment - a struggling steelhead in one hand and fishing rod in the other - in a suddenly quiet world. And in that moment I found peace within myself.

Some might ask... how does killing fish help one find peace? Seriously, dude, are you crazy or what?

Honestly, I can't really tell you the answer. The act of killing another organism is not the rhyme to the reason - only a choice that one has the ability to make. I had just as much of an opportunity to release this beautiful fish as I did to kill it. And given as honorable of a fight as I endured, I felt a bit too powerful taking the life of this fish into my own hands, literally. Almost too powerful, to be honest. But the benefit of this hatchery-bred fish is that they are released into the river for the sole purpose of sport fishing. The "sport" of fishing is the act of taking on these beautiful beings of nature in a life-or-death battle, where one has the ability to experience an engagement of instinct over emotion, sometimes brawn over brains. It is a very unique experience that many have never had the opportunity to engage in. There is so much more to it then just "catching a fish". It is one of the only instances in my life where I have felt alive in the truest sense of the word.

"Enjoyment should come from the pursuit of your quarry, not the acquisition of dead fish." ~ Jed Davis

Being a hatchery fish not only makes this fish a legal means of obtaining sustenance for oneself, but retention is extremely encouraged. While the glory and beauty of sport fishing lies in the battle, the added benefit of having a delicious meal to take home and enjoy with loved ones - and share the spoils of a well-fought victory - is what has been driving sport fishermen since the dawn of time. These hatchery fish fuel a overwhelming industry of hard working human beings who make fishing boats, rods, reels, lures, and run fishing guide services. It gives fishery managers and biologists the ability to manage stocks of wild fish while still allowing for sport and commercial fish harvest for the public. They teach sustainable practice by allowing anglers to selectively harvest hatchery fish while (in most cases) keeping wild fish from being targeted and their stocks depleted. Overall, the program has been a benefit to the sport of fishing, and is viewed as an essential task in fisheries management.

As a feeling washes over me akin to a cracked egg trickling down from the top of my head, I return to reality. I quickly process the fish to put it out of its misery and bleed it to allow for long-term freshness of the meat. I strongly feel that if you are going to retain a fish, you should do it as ethically as humanly possible. After that, I bask in a little of my own success and snap a few photos.

My first ever solo-caught steelhead. One of the best moments of my life, so far.

Quickly hiking out, I return to my truck and put the fish on ice in my brand-new cooler. Having bought a cooler and a vacuum-sealer just the day before, I am stoked to put it to good use!

Even at 10:00AM, the gorge has come up several degrees in temperature and it is now too warm to be wearing waders. I switch into some shorts and hiking shoes, and make my way down the trail once more to see if I can do something else I had never done before - catch my first limit of steelhead.

As I make my way back to the same slow-moving pool that yielded me my first steelhead of the day, I notice the large pack of fish still holding strong barely 30 yards upstream from where they were previously. After staring at the larger fish, I recognize that most of the pack is likely made up of spring chinook salmon - since most of the fish look too big to be summer steelhead. I opt to pass on these fish and go upstream to see if I could find some other willing biters.

About a hundred yards upstream I come across another run that yielded hungry steelhead for me and Evan on a previous outing. The caveat was that this run was known as the "heartbreaker", because despite both Evan and I each hooking a fish in this run on our previous trip we both failed to land the fish. My fish came unbuttoned after less than thirty seconds, and Evan's fish took off into the riffles below the run and wrapped itself around a rock before breaking the line above the bobber. I distinctively recall the steelhead jumping several times after breaking Evan's line, with the jig and bobber in tow. 

As I look into the water for several moments with my sunglasses, I spot a pair of steelhead holding in the perfect trenchlike bottom of the run, resting behind a submerged rock. After several casts with jig and bobber I do not get any kind of reaction from them, so I decide to try a different method entirely. I rig up a weighted drift rig with a piece of orange yarn and a sandshrimp tail. This rig is designed to float inches from the bottom and target fish that are not willing to swim up to strike - instead letting the bait come right to them. I cast out several feet ahead, and let the pencil lead sink right to the bottom before starting my line control. I hold the rod out with my index finger holding the line to the rod grip, so I can feel every bump of the lead as it bounces its way along the bottom. I watch the sandshrimp bounce along to within roughly six inches of the fish's face once again... and I witness a familar reaction as the steelhead swims up to the shrimp and starts munching. I set the hook instantly, and another red-hot pissed off summer steelhead is taking off for its life. 

Instead of the aerial acrobatics display from the previous steelhead, this one opts to play the power game, and attempts to use its brute strength and the force of the current to try and win the battle. I hold steady. After a few minutes of attrition, the chrome hatchery steelhead makes a turn downstream as fast as any lightning bolt I had ever seen, and I knew I was in trouble. The key to landing a fish in this run was keeping it in the upper stretch and not allowing it to run downstream. By not following my own rules, I gave the fish the advantage that it needed to escape. Wrapping itself around a rock and going downstream even further, I figured the battle was over. But when I could still feel the fish tugging away after almost thirty seconds of being wrapped around the rock, I had a small glimpse of hope. Taking my hiking shoes and socks off, I start wading out to the rock in the hopes that I can extend the rod tip out far enough to free the line. Miraculously, my plan seemed to work. I freed the line from the rock, and I thought the battle was on once more. But as I started bringing the rod back toward me to begin reeling the slack that I had lost, the fish made one last move downstream in such a fury that it actually snapped not only the line, but even the fishing rod into two!

I sat on the bank of the Siletz, utterly defeated and mourning the loss of my Berkley IM7 steelhead fishing rod for over twenty minutes. That fish had just kicked my ass unlike any fish I had ever fought before, and despite feeling like I had endured every last blow, the fish left me speechless and feeling broken. After collecting myself and realizing that the rod was somewhat still usable despite only being 3/4 of its original length, I tied up another drift rig and returned to the top of the run, where I noticed the second steelhead from the original pair hadn't moved. My spider senses tingling once again, I made the perfect cast, and felt the perfect drift once more. Bump... bump... bump... bump......... time froze as my shrimp was put to a silent halt once more. I set the hook, and the third steelhead in three casts was fighting me for its life. I instantly put as much pressure on the fish as I possibly could, feeling like I had nothing to lose but another fish. The fish succumbed to the pressure exactly how I wanted it to, and kept at bay in the upper portion of the run away from the dangerous riffle. Another ten minute fight later, I was successfully able to beach my second hatchery steelhead of the day. 

I had never felt more proud of myself in my entire life. Catching just one of these fantastic fish is a privilege and a blessing, but catching two of them in the same day while enduring the loss of a fishing rod and overcoming the loss of another fish has become one of the most encouraging victories of my entire fishing career.

Getting home early enough for dinner, I was able to utilize the steelhead I caught that day for an incredible meal, and vacuum-seal the rest for a few more delicious dinners down the road. 

Thanks for reading my story, and for sharing this unique moment in my life with me. Now, to get back to the rest of my final blog post of Summer 2012.

Despite not having caught much off the jetty this summer, I definitely enjoyed (almost) every moment being out on the big rocks near the ocean in my afternoons after work. While I'm sure I've mentioned the therapeutic qualities of being by water, there really isn't much that compares sitting next to the great Pacific ocean. 

The Yaquina Bay Bridge, separating Newport from South Beach

A cool photo of light breaking through the common marine layer that blankets the Newport sky

A uncommon catch from the jetty - Cabezon! I didn't know what it was when I caught it, so I released it. I showed this photo to the rockfish guru at the office and he confirmed it was a Cabezon. This fish is closed to retention in boats but bank anglers can keep them. One per day, 16'' minimum length. This fish would have been big enough to keep, and I hear they are fantastic table fare. 

One of the black rockfish I took home and ate... some of the best white-meat you will ever have! Pan fried with Cayenne Pepper, and thrown in a wrap with spinach and Chipotle Mayo. Amazing.

On the weekend, I decided to go up and fish the Siletz again with two good friends of mine from out of town. This was the scene the evening before... You can bet I have plenty of these in my jig stock now!

My buddy was very generous and gave me an old fishing rod of his to replace the IM7 I broke on my first solo trip. It was a 9'9 6-10lb IM8, essentially a lighter, longer version of the rod I had before. I was very excited to use it, and in the early afternoon I hooked up with this beautiful male wild Summer steelhead, my first steelhead of the year. Unfortunately... I ended up breaking THAT rod too, moments after I released this fish. I was leaning out on a ledge-like rock that dropped off about 4 and half feet into the water below, and I started to slip slowly down the rock. Throwing my arm backwards quickly to grab onto something, my arm came down directly on the rod and snapped it in two. Not exactly the way I wanted it to go out, on it's first fish... But that's how things go! Haven't broken a rod since... *knocks on wood* 

A beautiful jetty sunset

This seagull was floating in on a large piece of styrofoam and pecking at it as he did. Likely a piece of trash from the Japan Tsunami... A sobering reminder of a terrible tragedy. Just in case anyone doesn't know, these can actually kill sea birds if they eat it. I tried to scare this bird away from it, but couldn't do it. 

Sunrise on Siletz Bay, out for a morning of estuary seining for Juvenile Chinook salmon. 

Christine, STEP biologist, and Evan, district tech, help sort, measure and count Juvenile Chinook smolts. We did this in three to four places in the bay to get an idea of smolt size and abundance. We also took abundance of other fish we found, including juveniles of all the Rockfish species, English and Dover Sole, Pacific Staghorn Scupin, lots of Surfperch species, baitfish, shrimp, crab, and more. It was quite interesting getting to see such a large variety of species in one net! The estuaries truly are a mecca of life. For the sake of the fish, I didn't take many photos while we were handling fish because we worked quickly to make sure the fish are in and out of the water as quickly as possible. 

The seining boat we used, and part of the seining net. This net is around 150 feet long, and has one end with buoys and the other with a leaded line. We start by letting an "anchor" out from the shore to hang onto the rope, and slowly backing straight away from shore. The weighted line sinks the net down, while the buoys keep the upper portion afloat. The boat then swings in a semi-circle downstream with the current, until it gets to shore. The people in the boat detach the net from the boat and pull the lines in, and we slowly both work our way towards each other while pulling in the lead lines. The net has a "bag" portion in the middle where the net is fatter, which allows the fish to build up and gives them a place to go while we pull in the net. After reaching the "bag", we hold the net up and keep the fish in the water so they can respire while we sort through them to get to the Chinook. We let all fish go that entered the net. Sometimes we ran into schools of baitfish (smelt, herring, etc) that would be in the net by the hundreds!

Running up the Siletz Bay. 

It was a beautiful day to seine in the bay!

"Sea anemone city" out on the South Jetty

A beautiful sunset shot from the South Jetty

A big moth that landed on my backpack at some point in my day and followed me all the way back to the office.

This is in the bathroom at the Salmon River fish hatchery. I want it on my wall! Showing all 5 species of Pacific Salmon and Steelhead. 

A jig I tied up that I dubbed Melisandre, from the fantasy series Game of Thrones. She is infamous as the woman in the red dress. It didn't catch me a summer steelhead but I know it will catch me something one day.

Another jig I tied up, called Shrimp In The Dark. Shrimp pink / white marabou on a white glow-in-the-dark jighead. Probably a better winter steelhead color!

This is Jenn Johnson, a good friend of mine whom I had the pleasure of taking steelhead fishing and watching her catch her first steelhead ever! A beautiful 9lb chrome hen, from the upper Siletz. This is the second steelhead that I have coached into the hands of an angler who had previously never caught a steelhead before. Last February I helped my roommate from college also catch his first steelhead ever on the Alsea River. Does that jig look familiar folks? ;)

On a particular Sunday I had the pleasure of joining my brotha-from-anotha-motha' Alan Goering ( in his sexy brand spankin' new 2012 Alumaweld Free Drifter sled in the Yaquina bay for some rockfishing, salmon fishing, and crabbing madness!

It was quite ironic that despite LIVING at the coast for a whole 10 weeks, I only got out to fish from a boat just this once. I was very excited and stoked to be fishing with Alan for the day. 

Alan and I have been friends for a couple of years via Small Stream Salmon Fishing ( ), Portland, Oregon's Premire Educational Fishing Forum. I am a senior moderator for SSSF and have been since its beginning in 2009. It is through this wonderful community that I have had the pleasure of meeting and sharing educational information with true fishing professionals. It is free to join. If you have not been a part of the online forum scene for obvious reasons, rest assured that we work hard at SSSF to present a family-friendly community that aims directly to teach conservation-minded angling education to Portland and the Pacific Northwest. You can find me on there as "Twise95". Please sign up if you are into that kinda thing! 

Anyway, we started the day by loading our crab pots with squid and shad, tossing two into the bay and throwing two outside in the ocean. We wanted to rockfish as long as we could, but it didn't take long for the ocean to get lumpy enough for us to think twice about it. I caught a couple of small juvenile Halibut, and one ling cod that tipped the ruler at 21''.. being just an inch short of keepable size. We had one epic moment where we both hooked up at the same time... which resulted in both of us losing our fish. Fishing wasn't exactly amazing out there anyway, so we decided to resort to crabbing and salmon fishing. Giving our outside ocean pots time to soak, we started trolling the bay looking for a hungry feeding Chinook.

Alan at the helm of his guide sled. 

Within our first crab pot pull, we had 2/3 of our limit! Keeper male Dungeness Crab were more than abundant this day. The bay continued to produce more crab then even outside the bay, so we went and collected our outside pots and threw them inside. In one pot, we literally had crab stacked 3 crab high all the way across the width of the pot. It was absolutely insane. The Chinook didn't cooperate, but with the amount of crab available... we weren't complaining! One of the best parts of the crabbing fishery is that you are allowed to continue crabbing after a full limit has been reached, and pick through until you are satisfied with the size of each crab in your limit. With that rule in place, we were able to "high-grade" our crabs to the point where we kept 22 crab that were over an inch past the measuring stick (6 3/4'') and we only kept 2 others that were as big as the measuring stick. It was an absolutely phenomenal crabbing day.  

The day's spoils! I ate these in spaghetti, salad, and just outright for the next week. 

A picture of all the meat from the cracked crab, and a mutated crab leg. You can see that he has three pointers coming off of what should have been just one. He could have been the next best super hero... Crab Man... :)

One of the better experiences I got to tag along with late in my internship was with Chris Lorion, the project leader for the Life Cycle Monitoring project, on a day of snorkeling for juvenile Coho Salmon on Lobster Creek. Lobster Creek is a tributary of the Five Rivers in the Alsea Basin, and is considered one of the best spawning habitats available for Coho Salmon on the entire Oregon coast. Its size and variable structure give plenty of opportunity for Coho Salmon to spawn and rear, and we were not disappointed with the abundance we found in Lobster Creek.

Although I didn't get to do any snorkeling myself, I tagged along to help measure pool dimensions and record data on a PDA. We hiked about 3 and a half miles of creek, measuring every third pool as we went. By measuring only a portion of the pools, it saves time and allows Chris the opportunity to extrapolate from there and gives him an idea of how many Coho fry are frequenting pools in Lobster Creek. By measuring pool dimensions and recording what style of pool it is, Chris can identify what kind of water juvenile Coho like to rear in. We also record numbers of juvenile Steelhead, Cutthroat trout, presence of "Zeroes" (small unidentifiable trout species) and the visibility of the pool. 

Chris recording data in his PDA, looking over a recently snorkeled pool.

Ron, one of the main project leaders from the Corvallis Research Lab and manager for all of the fall Coho snorkeling crews on the Mid-Coast, snorkels for us on this day.

This is the 2-meter stick I use to measure length, depth, and width of every pool that gets snorkeled. We enter this into a waterproof PDA for data retention.

Just a trickle right now, but in the winter this creek can turn into quite a dangerous stream. Evan tells me that he's worked spawning surveys on creeks like this in the late fall and early winter, and it can be quite treacherous with the volume of water pushing through. 

This is a stream named "Trib A". This is a small tributary of Lobster Creek that we found juvenile Coho and steelhead rearing in. It is amazing how these fish can survive in such tiny little streams! This is exactly why habitat restoration projects are so vital. Destruction and alterations to even tiny creeks like this can lead to extinction of an entire salmon population. 

A definitive "Plunge Pool", where water comes in from above to scour or "carve" out a deep pool. A couple of steps of plunge pools, here.

Up at the fish trap, things stayed pretty slow for the last month that I was there. In August, when it gets extremely warm in the gorge, Summer Steelhead and Chinook Salmon migration comes to a halt as they look for any cooler water they can hang out in until the first fall rains come in to cool the water temperature down a few degrees. If the water temperature is any higher than 68 degreees, the fish get extremely stressed out and do not do well. Thankfully the river never reached that temperature. But, it creates a lull in the returning fish numbers until the fall rains hit in September.

On one particular Wednesday after we had received a small rain the following Sunday, I took Suzanne Bauer, a IT specialist from the office, up to the trap to get her hands on some adult fish. She chose a great day to come up, as we had 16 wild Spring Chinook and over 45 new wild and hatchery Summer Steelhead. Here are a few photos of the Chinook that stopped in to say hi!

Suzanne holding a 30+lb Chinook. She lived in Alaska for a long time but never got to go fishing. Don't ask me how that is possible. She was absolutely ecstatic to see the great number of fish in the trap. 

Putting on my gloves, getting ready to hold a monster!

This fish easily went 35 pounds. An absolute monster Spring Chinook salmon from the Siletz.

All of the wild fish from that day. The upper portion of the trap was pretty crowded!

A bit of a size comparison next to a cinder block.

In the last 2 weeks of my internship I had the opportunity to help Evan and two fisheries EBA's from the Siletz Tribe in electrofishing a couple of tributaries of the upper Siletz for juvenile Steelhead. The Siletz Tribe fisheries biologist and the Mid-Coast assistant district fisheries biologist needed to collect genetic data from upper Siletz River tributary steelhead to get an idea of whether these fish are the same or vary genetically having come from different small creeks in the same river system. By looking at the genetic variability, one can say whether the juveniles in one creek are actually an entirely different stock of fish. The fish pictures is a small Steelhead fry.

We fish using a backpack electrofisher device, which has a small battery attached to it for power. We use a long rod that has a 2-foot diameter metal circle on one end, which acts as the cathode.The anode "tail" usually trails you, but you toss it above into the pool that you shock to create a magnetic field between the two. The backpack allows you to set the frequency and number of volts, which vary depending on the species of fish you are shocking. No fish were killed; it simply shocks the fish temporarily and allows the fish to make a full recovery. 

For the steelhead that we capture, we anesthetize them in MS-222, a light/moderate anesthetic which helps keep them calm while we take genetic samples (a small sliver of tail fin). The tail will actually regenerate in time. After giving them time to recover, we will release them back into the river. 

Upper Buck Creek, one of the larger, main tributaries of the Siletz in the Siletz Gorge. 

Ben, one of the Siletz Tribe EBAs and a classmate of mine at Oregon State University, prepares to take a genetic sample.

Steelhead fry getting knocked out from the MS-222. We call it givin' em the "drugs". 

Another beautiful fishless afternoon/night out on the jetty:

You know you're in the good fishing spot when you see the rocks littered with bird crap.

A nice walk out to the end that unfortunately didn't yield any rockfish for me.

There's something about being at one edge of the terrestrial world that is therapeutic. This ocean has pounded on, for every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year for nearly all of time.  It is truly an amazing world we live in to be surrounded by such natural beauty.

The jetty makes for some spectacular sunset pictures, if you haven't noticed :) This is the south side of the South Jetty.

Night setting in... but with the bright moon out, almost hard to tell!

One of my final projects as the mid-coast district intern was to "sort and re-rig" all of these trout fishing rods for next year's events. Talk about a tough gig!

On my last fishing trip of the summer, I walked a hundred yards from my truck to this lovely sighting. Just about every shadow you see in this photo is a resting Steelhead. Unfortunately I couldn't get any to bite.

Sunset as I come down the Gorge road.

Another one of my final shadows at the Mid-Coast office was a day with Stacy Polkowske, the habitat biologist for the Mid-Coast district. I got to follow her on a day of log habitat placement on Bear Creek, a tributary of the Salmon River near Otis, Oregon. In previous fisheries management, logs were actually removed from streams because it was thought that it would "allow juvenile salmon to migrate to the estuary faster", and that "they impede upstream travel of adult fish". While those two things might be true, it is also known that salmonids need logs to create breaks in the stream. Breaks in the river give salmon and steelhead the opportunity for adults to spawn and juveniles to rear. Log placement is one of Stacy's main projects as the habitat fish biologist, while she also works on culvert repair/placement projects among other things. 

We meet the log mover at "Pixieland", a large piece of habitat along the lower Salmon River that was purchased by the US Forest Service after it faltered in the early 70's and 80's as a huge amusement park. This habitat, which goes from Highway 18 all the way back to the river and is several miles long, has been restored through volunteer projects with the USFS and the Lincoln County Soil and Water Conservation group. In a few months this land will be reopened to the public for recreational use and will allow fishermen the opportunity access a lot of great water on the lower Salmon River for fall Chinook and Coho Salmon and Winter Steelhead.

This truck was MASSIVE! And the logs that we were moving were even bigger. It is incredible how such a piece of equipment can make moving a log look like a piece of cake. Our truck loaded, we take off for the placement site.

A picture of the morning sunrise, taken over by the foggy marine layer.

A picture of the Cat that was used to haul logs to the streambed, and the humongous loader that was used to place logs in the stream. Before we could get down to the stream bed, the loader had to remove several down rootwad trees to make a passable trail.

Sure didn't take long! Norm, the loader driver, was a very professional and hard worker. 

Here's Norm lifting a rootwad that had about a 85 foot log attached to it... with ease.

Here, Stacy talks to Kevin, the landowner that gave permission for ODFW to come onto his property and place logs. Having great communicative skills with landowners is key to Stacy being able to get her projects finished, and having landowners who care about natural resources really makes the job that much easier. Kevin allowed Stacy to use rootwadded trees from his own property to place into the stream, which was his way of "giving back" to the salmon populations that once thrived in this stream in the thousands. Bear Creek still gets a very good return of steelhead and fall salmon. 

Stacy, looking on as the Loader moves his way downhill.

Here is the Cat, making his own road down to the stream bed. The US Forest Service uses cats just like these to make and maintain forest service roads.

A not-so-representative photo of Stacy in comparison to the loader. 

Looking at "Site 1"

You can see Norm moving a log for the creek. 

It is absolutely impressive how pin-point accurate that Norm can lay these huge logs into the creek. Stacy lays the logs on top of each other in a "V" pattern, which gives them stability and effectively breaks the stream up. She places non-rootwadded trees down last, to anchor the other logs down.

Moving and placing logs at "Site 3"

Stacy absolutely loves her job... and with cool projects like this, I wouldn't blame her!

Stacy contemplating where the next log will go..

Kevin and Katherine (Lincoln County Soil and Water) look on as Stacy instructs Norm on which log she wants to place next.

Kind of a cool photo showing the different entities that work together on projects like these. Stacy representing ODFW, Kevin as the landowner, Katherine from the Lincoln County Soil and Water organization, and Norm as the laborer / equipment specialist.

Placement on "Site 3"

"Site 2". This should slow that creek down a little in the winter!

And, placement on "Site 1". 

After a hard day at work, enjoying my pint of "Double Chocolate Stout" from Rogue. It's pretty good stuff.

I got to spend another day with another snorkeling crew before I left, this time on Crowley Creek which is a another Salmon River tributary.

The thorny species on the right is actually a native plant species that I'm told is a good health indicator of streams, as they don't grow in riparian zones that are overly polluted or taken over by non-native species.

Bill Ratliff, a project assistant that has been snorkeling with ODFW for many years, snorkels a pool. Today I tagged along with Bill and Ashley, the same EBA that was working on the juvenile salmonid fish traps earlier in June and July.

Bill snorkeling a nice pool.

The Salmon River estuary, where Crowley Creek enters the bay.

One of the calmest days I've ever seen on the coast. Not a single wiff of wind to be seen!

A sign showing the layout of the Salmon River estuary and detailing the importance of habitat restoration. 

And with that... that was a wrap!

On my last day at the office, I got to trade in my not-so-stinky and slimy uniform hat for a brand new, volunteer hat. Not a bad trade in my book!

Some gifts I received for completing my summer internship with ODFW, thanks to the Mid-Coast district office. Quite a treat!

My drive home, moving back to Corvallis. 

Well folks, that wraps up my summer internship with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as the Mid-Coast District Intern for the Summer of 2012. 

I greatly appreciate all that made this possible, including Evan, Christine, Derek, Stacy, Bob, Chris, Ashley, Hope, John, the ODFW volunteers, and everyone else at the ODFW District office, Oregon State University (for such a fine Fisheries and Wildlife program), and my internship coordinator Rebecca Goggans for helping me secure this internship. Thank you so much!

I hope that all of you that read this gained insight into the daily life of fisheries and wildlife work, and that you were able to develop some sort of appreciation for the kind of hard work that these folks do, day in and day out. Also, I hope that it gave you insight into the kind of work I am pursuing, and exactly why I am that crazy about natural resources and protecting fisheries and wildlife for generations to come. The Siletz River was one of the most incredible places I've ever had the opportunity to work at, and I will think back on these fond memories for a long time. Getting my first step in the door, at such a wonderful district office and working at such a beautiful place, will bring me great motivation moving forward. 

Thank you all for reading, and I hope to continue to document my life moving forward in such a way! It was a pleasure bringing this to the blogosphere, and I hope that I can get the opportunity to do more of this in the future.

Take care, and tight lines to all!