The Moran Creek Kokanee Hatchery on Orcas Island has been selected as the “Outstanding Volunteer Group” in the Washington State Parks system for 2018.
Volunteers help maintain the hatchery program that received 200,000 fertile salmon eggs from the Lake Whatcom Hatchery and released up to perhaps 175,000 into Cascade Lake where they will either live for three or four years or be eaten by trout, bald eagles, osprey, otters, or lucky fisher people.
The program has been in existence since the late 1940s when the Kokanee were released into Cascade Lake. At one point, most of the knowledge and responsibilities were shared between three people: Dave Caster and Al Nickerson, former park rangers at Moran State Park, and Mike Connell, fish biologist at Long Live the Kings Hatchery and consultant at the Moran Creek Hatchery.
Caster had many conversations with fellow fisherman, John Sumrall, who decided to invite Odd Fellows and other men and women from the community to participate. There are now 19 volunteers, mostly Odd Fellows, who keep it going.
After catching his first Kokanee as a child at Cascade Lake and about forty years of passionate dedication and service as a park ranger, Caster has passed the responsibility along. He is pleased to know that this has turned into such a successful community project and that the level of participation is strong. Caster passionately expressed, “I am so glad that so many of the Odd Fellows are interested. It is a wonderful relationship. I’m happy and proud of these volunteers. It’s a model program that more state parks should look at. When you get the community involved, you have a lot going for you. The next step is a good educational program.”
The level of dedication and passion exemplified by Caster for years, and his love of salmon, is present now with the current volunteer coordinator, Sumrall, who is doing a great job of bringing people together to make this happen so the program can thrive.
Sumrall shared, “It’s a wonderful relationship with our group and the current rangers. The baton has been passed.”