August 01, 2016
When I was nineteen years old, I landed a dream job and didn't even know it. I got hired for a year appointment by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under a program called the Young Adult Conservation Corps, and spent the next four seasons working in western Washington and the Olympic Peninsula. In the Fall, I ran the takeup drum on a research vessel, dragging a half mile long net across Hood Canal to catch and jaw tag King salmon in salt water. Winter came time to help with hatchery duties out at Lake Quinault out on the Peninsula, and in the Spring, I manned the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks in Seattle. The Locks had underwater windows where you could watch chromer Steelhead bang each other around in the step pools before jumping into a final catch cage, where I would net them, wrestle them into a measuring box, cut off their adipose fins to mark them as having been documented, and fit them with a serialized jaw tag.
If there was anything I learned in this process, it was this: a twenty pound Steelhead is a considerably stronger animal than a forty pound King. Those fish slapped me around hard.
The good folks at Yeti have been helping produce an ongoing series of excellent videos on the various facets of our sport, the latest being a mind-blowing look at the lives and work of people who are living their dream jobs at the end of the planet—steelhead conservation and research on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. American and Russian professional guides and cold water biologists are cooperating on a post cold war program to protect specie in a place that is so uninhabited that the very idea of wildlife conservation has to be almost alien to what few locals there are.
Kamchatka makes Patagonian Chile look overdeveloped, I've heard it described as Alaska 75 years ago. This does not mean that it is inaccessible for fishermen willing to pay the tab and play the lottery for a truly once in a lifetime experience -- I recently met a board member of a regional chapter of Trout Unlimited who had sold a firearm collection amassed over 40 years to be able to fund an upcoming trip. And it's the guys on the ground in Kamchatka and in Moscow who are making those opportunities possible.
Kamchatka Steelhead Project
An inspiring guideline for international conservation policy in the future, this short film is sure to get your blood flowing.