Our volunteers often show a lifetime of commitment, and work hard every day for fish and wildlife

David Hoel dreamed of working for Washington Department of Game (now Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, WDFW) after high school. After two years of college, he applied, but the Department of Game (as it was then called) wasn’t hiring. He went to work as an electrician, a carpenter, and later he owned a picture framing shop. The idea of working for the Department of Game kept tugging at him. David wanted to be a game warden or work in wildlife research. He applied to the fisheries program out of Port Angeles, but the timing was off, and again they weren’t hiring.

Always a steward of the land, David was vigilant in keeping his eye out for poachers and people leaving litter behind. But he wanted to do more. About 40 years ago, the Game Department director gave him a hat that he proudly wore until he lost it in the woods about two years ago. “I was distraught, to say the least,” says David.

David is recently married and his new brother-in-law, Greg Haldy, works for WDFW as a fish hatchery specialist at the Washougal and Goldendale Hatcheries. Knowing that David had always wanted to work for WDFW, Greg asked if he was interested in volunteering to plant fish into Indian Heaven Wilderness, and David jumped at the chance.

Two men stand at the waters edge of a lake with trees on the opposite side of the lake
David and Greg at one of the lakes in the Indian Haven Wilderness

Meeting at the Washougal Hatchery, Greg and David headed to the trailhead to meet two WDFW employees, Jesse Miller, fish hatchery specialist at the Goldendale Hatchery, and Paul Dunlap, scientific technician on the pike minnow program.

It was a cold morning as the four-person team set out with packs on, each containing about 250 cutthroat trout fry that were raised at the Goldendale Hatchery. As they headed up the trail, David realized this wasn’t going to be an easy hike and he would have to quicken his pace to keep up. As they headed up the steep hills, the hike was starting to test David, but his will was strong. The awkward sloshing of the water in the pack was throwing off his balance, his legs were hurting, and his heart was pounding, but he tried to focus on the grand forest views. When he fell behind, the WDFW crew patiently waited for David to catch up.

Two men walking in low vegetation towards a lake with trees on the opposite side of the lake
Two men walking in low vegetation towards a lake with trees on the opposite side of the lake
David and Jesse arriving at a lake to stock cutthroat trout

After a two-mile uphill hike, which to David seemed like 20, they finally made it to the first lake. David was hopeful that his pack will be the first to be planted, but no, his fish were destined to be released at the last lake of the day.

There was some cross-country travel to the next lake as it started to rain. The temperatures were dropping as they made their way to the third lake. Then they made it to the fourth lake, where David’s trout were slated for stocking. When released, the fish stayed close to shore before venturing out of sight.

Man wearing rain gear pouring water and trout fry from a bag into the lake.
Man wearing rain gear pouring water and trout fry from a bag into the lake.
David planting the cutthroat trout fry he carried up to the lake

After a quick snack break, the team started back downhill. David was happy to have gravity working on his side for the way back to the truck, but it had started to rain again. By the time they reached their vehicles, they were soaking wet and cold.

David felt like he walked about 50 miles that day, but he says it was probably four or five, and it was the trip of a lifetime.

He’s looking forward to his next adventure with WDFW.

Greg was grateful to have his new brother-in-law participate in the planting. “David did a great job for us on this trip and we will be utilizing his services in the future for more high mountain lake plants (if he is willing),” says Greg. “I am also planning to get him a new volunteer hat to replace the one he lost years ago.”

The lakes that were planted that day were Blue Lake, Sahlee Tyee Lake, Rock Lake, and Little Rock Lake. Indian Heaven Wilderness is southwest of Mount Adams.

Thank you, David, for all that you do!

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