By Marjorie Woodfin
Pilot staff writer
Jim Welter, Brookings' own "fishing guru," was honored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) on June 6 when he was presented with the ODFW Dave Liscia Volunteer Award.
According to ODFW Director Roy Elicker, the award is presented annually to one outstanding volunteer.Elicker explained that the award was created in honor of a deceased ODFW employee who coordinated volunteer efforts prior to his death in an automobile accident.
"Jim's lifelong volunteerism and passion for fish has been invaluable to ODFW and the natural resources of our state," Elicker said when giving the award to Welter.
Welter responded, "After 20 years it's about time they recognized I know something about fishing."
During the ODFW presentation, Welter was recognized for his involvement in Oregon's Salmon Trout Enhancement Program (STEP), from its inception. He is a charter member of the ODFW Marine Sportfish Advisory Committee.
Welter was recognized for his help in creating the Klamath Zone Fisheries Management Coalition on which he is currently the Oregon fishing representative, and recognized as the Pacific Fishery Management Council's Salmon Advisory Subpanel's "Southern Oregon senior ecologist."
Welter is known throughout Oregon, and especially Curry County, as probably the most reliable source of information about the state of the local fisheries.
He is proud of his record of giving accurate predictions about upcoming abundance of fish without the benefit of a crystal ball. "Better than anything ODFW came up with," he said.
ODFW information about Welter included his service as an infantryman in the Korean War, his years as a commercial fisherman in Fort Bragg and his work as a reservoir manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Elicker noted that Welter's volunteer accomplishments are more remarkable because he never let accidental loss of vision in his right eye and restricted vision from a detached retina in his left eye hamper his volunteer work in any way.
But ODFW award isn't the only lavish praise the ardent fisherman has received recently.
His fish acumen also received high marks in a paper written last year by eminent biologist Daniel B. Botkin. The biologist wrote about meeting Welter when Botkin was commissioned by the State of Oregon to do a study on relative effects of forest practices on salmon.
In the article, Botkin explained that he met Welter at a public meeting held in Curry County for fishermen and fishing guides.
"At this meeting, Jim made one of the most remarkable, insightful suggestions about salmon that I'd heard during the entire three-year study," the biologist said.
Botkin praises Welter's reasoning that the amount of water flowing in the salmon streams can predict the amount of salmon that will return to the stream four years later. The higher the water flow, the larger number of salmon that will return to spawn.
Botkin credited Welter with actually obtaining data about stream flow and fish returns that verified Welter's belief. According to the data obtained from ODFW and the U.S. Geological Survey, four years after a high stream flow, a lot of salmon swam upstream and four years following a low-water year, few salmon returned.
Botkin wrote, "And sure enough, it turned out that one could account for 80 percent of the variation in salmon abundance from water flow alone."
Unfortunately, Botkin wrote that he had to admit his answer was negative to Welter's follow-up question, "Them government fellows ever listen to what you told them?"
Welter then said, "If only we weren't so greedy, everything would be all right."
Welter's current prediction for next year's salmon fishery will be welcome news for fishermen.
"It's gonna' be good for 3-year-olds," he said, adding,"There are lots of 2-year olds out there now."
Botkin's paper titled, "Jim Welter, Fisherman, Country Philosopher, and Natural Scientist," ends with, "Jim Welter represents one kind of person we desperately need to help with our environmental problems: a good observer invested in natural resources without any ideological bones to pick, open to new ideas, willing to look at primary data in a fresh way. ... and not jump to conclusions. When I think about acting locally to help nature, I think about Jim Welter, who had more foresight with his one eye than many government employees with two."
Welter said recently, "You just have to live with and understand how God created things."
He's looking forward the June 22 opening of the adipose fin-clipped coho salmon season.
When he isn't fishing he works in his rose garden where he propagates fragrant flowers, but he's always ready to go fishing.
"If anyone wants to take me fishing, just call me," he said. "My phone number is 469-7044.