Stacie Kelsey’s Office Is the Waters of Southwest Washington

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle
Stacie Kelsey has been working for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife since 1992 in a job that is as varied as the terrain she covers.

As a scientific technician for the Region 5 Inland Fish Program, Kelsey’s territory is comprised of all six counties in Southwest Washington, from Rock Creek in Klickitat County to Mineral Lake in Lewis County.

“My job covers all of the lakes and ponds and inland fish streams,” Kelsey said, “any of the streams where we stock trout, like Skate Creek and the Tilton, and I also work the high lakes.”Working 8 to 12 hour days, Kelsey puts in a lot of time on the road, but she isn’t complaining.

“I have the best job and the best boss in the world,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey works with John Weinheimer, District 9 fish biologist.

“We are really working hard to get families out there fishing,” said Kelsey, who spent the first 13 years of her job working in the youth program for Southwest Washington. “He (Weinheimer) says, ‘Get out there and make us look good, Stacie,’ and gives me the time and the tools to do the job.”

Kelsey’s days are highly varied. One work day might consist of conducting creel surveys in the daytime to working up fish in electroshock surveys at night.
“There’s lots of paperwork involved, reports, creating presentations,” Kelsey said.

But it’s all for the love of the water and the outdoors.

“As a kid I did nothing but hunt and fish with my grandpa, grandma and mom and dad,” Kelsey said.

She carries her grandfather’s “old, old, old” Sears Craftsman pocketknife as not just a tool, but also as a reminder of her outdoors heritage.

Creel Surveys and More
Kelsey travels from creeks to lakes across her territory, walking the banks or greeting boats as they come into shore.

“I do a casual interview with the fishermen, ask them what they’re fishing for, what they’re using,” she said. “If they have fish I’ll take measurements and maybe take scale samples. I’ll ask them what they’re seeing out on the water.”

On a good day Kelsey can hit up to eight lakes.

“And 99.5 percent of the time I’m dealing with really great people,” Kelsey said. “I’m not an officer; I don’t want to see your fishing license. I’m there to study the lake and the fish.”

Kelsey’s favorite part of her job is conducting the electroshock surveys.

“There is nothing better than being out on the water, working under starry skies, working up the fish,” Kelsey said.

In the electroshock surveys, Kelsey works from an 18-foot boat with a large live well, and a pair of electric probes that, when inserted into the water and the power is turned on, quickly stuns the fish in the small surrounding area so they can be scooped up and transferred into the live well and studied at leisure.

“We take their lengths and weights, take scale samples and look at the overall condition of the fish and the variety of fish we pull up,” Kelsey said.

Back at the office they work up the data and compare the growth of the fish and the expectations of the producing body of water.

“We’ve shocked up some pretty interesting things,” Kelsey said. “We sample everything that pops up; it gives us a good overall look at the lake.”

Kelsey uses a lot of volunteers in her work.

“I really like to work with the locals, they know the area, and they can tell me the trends they are seeing,” she said.

A typical electroshock survey takes 2 to 4 hours, working after dark, sometimes until 2 o’clock in the morning.

Presentations
Kelsey will travel to talk to various groups about her job and the work the WDFW is undertaking.

She also gets involved in local fishing tournaments and works to build relationships with clubs and fishing associations, like the Cascade Musky Association, which held a tiger musky tournament on Lake Mayfield this weekend.

She also works with the Washington Outdoor Women group, teaching basic fishing courses at the weekend workshop. Go to http://www.washington
outdoorwomen.org for more information.

“It’s all part of my job,” Kelsey said.
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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer based in Cinebar. She can be contacted at kz@tds.net.