Volunteers share the story of migrating coho, chinook

September 28, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Jeanette Ludwig-Hughes, of Issaquah (left), a first-time volunteer docent for Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, teaches a Cougar Ridge Elementary third-grade class about salmon next to the coho salmon sculptures Finley and Gillda Sept. 23 at the hatchery. By Greg Farrar

A record number of docents registered in September to volunteer at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery.

These locals are now prepared to instruct the masses and answer countless questions about chinook salmon, coho salmon and their Pacific Northwest underwater brethren.

Usually, about a dozen new volunteers sign up annually, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Executive Director Gestin Suttle said. This year, about 40 first-time volunteers signed up to volunteer at the hatchery.

Beverly Lee, volunteer coordinator for FISH, said many of the volunteers began shadowing tours after their Sept. 11 training day.

“We probably have about eight of them that are actually leading tours now,” Lee said.

Hatchery docents conduct tours seven days a week, educating school children, out-of-town visitors and curious locals about the life cycle of salmon. Docent-led tours end Nov. 12.

Sharon Macpherson started volunteering in 2009 after years of visiting the hatchery down the hill from her Squak Mountain home.

Before volunteering, “I didn’t know anything about salmon, except that they were delightfully edible,” Macpherson said.

She reasoned that anyone living in the Pacific Northwest should know about salmon, so she joined the docent program to teach herself and others about the hatchery’s fish.

People ask her all types of questions. They ask why the hatchery kills fish for spawning purposes, and “we emphasize the fact that they are not going to live much longer, because all spawning salmon die,” she said.

Visitors who ask what the hatchery does with leftover salmon meat learn that it does not go to waste, but goes to fertilizer or pet food companies. Macpherson said she emphasizes that the fish begin to deteriorate the moment they enter fresh water at the Ballard locks.

“It’s not delicious salmon,” she said. “Get yourself a nice fresh one at the grocery store.”

Small fry are allowed to volunteer at the hatchery, too, so long as they are 13 or older.

Beginning this year, the hatchery is accepting help from two youths who run errands and help operations at the hatchery flow smoothly, Lee said.

All of the volunteers are in place for the 2010 Salmon Days this weekend, and Lee encouraged the community to attend its training day next year, which will be in August or September.

FISH thanks its volunteers with an exclusive Halloween party at the salmon hatchery and a volunteer appreciation potluck in December.

Macpherson said it is important to pay tribute to the salmon that swim so hard to reach their birthplace.

“They have, for years, gone up Issaquah Creek to spawn,” Macpherson said. “This is their territory and we can learn a lot.”

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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One Response to “Volunteers share the story of migrating coho, chinook”

  1. FISH executive director to step down March 31 : The Issaquah Press – News, Sports, Classifieds in Issaquah, WA on March 13th, 2011 8:01 am

    […] conducts educational tours at the state-operated Issaquah Salmon Hatchery during fall salmon runs and the Salmon Days […]

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