Giving back to Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, a community ‘treasure’

July 17, 2012

By M.J. Hoecherl

When Kelly Richardson was a child, her grandmother used to take her and her sister for picnics along Tibbetts Creek.

“We saw fish spawn, tree frogs lay their eggs, and watched eagles and blue herons fly,” she said.

These days, the Issaquah resident volunteers with the city’s historic staple attraction — the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Richardson calls it an “Issaquah treasure.” She works for a program called FISH, or Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, which gives tours to thousands of visitors a year.

“Resource conservation has always been a strong value of mine, so the opportunity to become a FISH docent was one I couldn’t resist,” said Richardson, who also works as a real estate broker.

Get involved

To fill out a volunteer interest form and learn more about this year’s docent training registration, call 392-8025 or email

She started volunteering three years ago as a way to repay the hatchery for giving her so many happy memories as a child.

As a docent, Richardson’s job includes giving tours of the hatchery to people of all ages, and doing so in an informative, fun and interesting way.

Melanie Jacobs, another Issaquah resident and FISH docent, used to take her children to visit the hatchery when they were young. She volunteers because of her passion for conservation and wildlife in the Pacific Northwest.

“My favorite tours are for people new to the area, some even from other countries,” she said. “They can’t believe that we have these huge fish coming up Issaquah Creek that passes Microsoft, Costco, etc. It was the same for me when I first moved here in 1989, and I still have that thrill today.”

Becoming involved with FISH is one of the easiest and most fulfilling volunteer opportunities Issaquah has to offer, according to the hatchery’s volunteer coordinator, Beverly Lee. Those who register before Aug. 20 will have the opportunity to attend an all-day training class Aug. 25. It will include a hatchery tour, a presentation about the salmon lifecycle and a training manual. They’ll also get tips on how to interact with students, chaperones and other visitors.

Volunteers are most needed for giving tours of the hatchery, especially from September to November — the hatchery’s busiest time of the year — when the salmon come through to spawn, Lee said. But being a guide isn’t the only job available to FISH volunteers if leading a crowd isn’t your first choice.

“We have something for just about everyone,” Lee said. “People who like to be with the public, give tours and talk about their passion for the environment, that’s probably our biggest need. But there’s also room for people who would prefer to help out the hatchery employees.”

Only three workers handle the fish that come through the hatchery. Helping in the gift shop is another option. Volunteers are needed year round and for every day of the week.

M.J. Hoecherl is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at

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One Response to “Giving back to Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, a community ‘treasure’”

  1. First three stories published in News Lab « MJ's Blog on July 19th, 2012 11:34 am

    […] Giving back to Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, a community ‘treasure’ (The Issaquah Press)  […]

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