I received the following contribution from Way Upstream community member Dylan Tomine after his recent visit with Bill McMillan of the Wild Fish Conservancy. Dylan wrote;
"Spent a wonderful day with Bill McMillan of the Wild Fish Conservancy near his home up on the Skagit River. Bill is a true steelhead guru, probably most famous for his dry line techniques described in his influential book on the subject. But more than that, he is a hardcore steelhead conservationist, biologist and probably the foremost expert on historical steelhead and salmon run size estimates. He’s also a hell of a nice guy.
Yesterday, we fished the home water in front of his house—he with (of course) a dry line, and me following with a sinktip. With the serious work out of the way, we headed up some of the nearby spawning/rearing tribs and he showed me how he conducts his stream surveys and juvenile fish research. He often uses an old cane rod (with silk gut line) and a small barbless dry to catch fish for DNA sampling—a quick snip of a nearly microscopic fin sample and the fish are released unharmed.
Then to find out what the productivity of recent spawning classes is, he dons wetsuit, mask and snorkel and actually counts fish in the icy water. He’s done this on hundreds of streams and rivers over the decades, and says the best time is actually in the winter. At night. I don’t think I’m up for that, but I hope to join him soon on some of his underwater research. It’s an amazing process, and I’m looking forward to it.
Anyway, I just wanted to give a tip of the cap to one of our great fish conservation heroes. Bill has dedicated his life to saving wild fish, and if there’s hope for wild steelhead in the future, it will be because of the work people like Bill are doing. Spending the day with him and watching him work is inspiring, to say the least."
If you have a special person in your community that you'd like to call attention to, feel free to submit it to me at Way Upstream.
Photos and contribution by Dylan Tomine