About Us

Information Book - PDF

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Fish First History​

 

Our Beginnings
 

Fish First began as an effort to return declining fish populations to the Lewis River System to historical levels. It started with the combined efforts of five men, who lived and fished along the Lewis and were increasingly aware of the dwindling numbers of salmon and steelhead in the stream. This group became known as 'Friends of the Lewis'.

 

During the formative months they met with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) members and explained what they wanted to do. WDFW biologists and employees listened and helped to guide them toward their early goals. During the first few years of doing this work, it became obvious that there were many issues with recovery and many special interests involved. Being successful required unwavering focus on what was best for the fish. The name of the organization was changed to "Fish First."

 

Fish First began in 1995. By March of that year a banquet was underway for the month of May to recruit members and a non-profit status as a 501(c)3 organization was acquired.

 

The first task was to design seven state-of-the-art aluminum fish rearing net pens for installation in the Fall of the 1995.

Working closely with the hatcheries on the North Fork Lewis River, net pens were installed, and juvenile salmonids were put in them. 38,000 smolt were released that February. Then, the flood of 1996 wreaked havoc on the net pens, tearing them loose from their moorings, emptying the fish earlier than planned, and leaving the debris several miles downstream. This volunteer group, whose membership was growing, rallied together with boats and brought the net pens back. With new nets and a little structural repair, they were ready to go again.

 

The fish that are housed here grow from approximately 12 per pound to 5 per pound in a short six weeks, significantly faster than the hatchery growth rates. Fish First volunteers feed and monitor the fish while they are our guests. During their stay, these anadromous fish imprint with this reach of the river and return to this area as spawning adults.

 

We continue to raise fry in net pens today and release 140,000+ Chinook salmon, and 70,000 steelhead each year between December and June. We invite you to become a part of Fish First's future.

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