Fishing for Howard

The scheming started in early December, at the annual Washington Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) meeting at Suncadia. We had done this before; Homeys Bill Boyum, Kirk Johnson and I were determined to have another go. The bidding was spirited, but somehow we ended up on top one more time.

The money from this annual do supports WACD Evirothon and other association educational activities. More than that, the certificate we won was for an almost-sacred trip on the Big River.

This whole thing started at the 2010 WACD meeting in Spokane. I’d been invited to give my trademark talk about dealing with difficult people – a natural given my life history – and stick around for the banquet.

After the banquet, there was an auction. I love auctions, but rarely rise to the bait to bid. I was being lulled by the rhythm of the auction and the bidding, and visiting with a couple acquaintances, when I heard the MC mention the 2010 Howard Jaeger Memorial Fishing Trip to the Lower Columbia with fishing nut Steve Souvenir. “How many people can go?” I asked. Three people gave three different answers, but it worked; I was soon the proud possessor of a certificate entitling me and a friend or two to time with Steve on the Lower Columbia.

As it turned out, Howard had passed away less than a month before the WACD meeting. Bill Boyum had been bidding against me for that trip, but generously offered to round up some information for me about Jaeger. The more I learned about him and his work – and the more I see the large number of other volunteers making our conservation districts function, the more I think you ought to meet Icon Howard, too.

Howard Jaeger was born in Vancouver in 1933, graduated from Kalama High School and was an alum of UW.  After a 25-year career with the Army, starting with the Korean Conflict, he retired to his tree farm in Cowlitz County, although “retired” is probably inaccurate. He almost immediately went to work as a volunteer with the Cowlitz Conservation District, and served as an elected supervisor, associate supervisor or board member until his death. Somewhere in that time, he became president of the Washington Association of Conservation Districts and served as a region manager for the Washington State Conservation Commission. Throughout this time, perhaps as an outgrowth of his passion for tree farms and his support of farm forestry, he pushed for creation of the WACD Plant Material Center, and saw it happen. Remember that his thirty years of work on behalf of conservation districts was entirely voluntary.

During those “retirement” years, with activities in the American legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he nurtured his family, his garden, his books, his wine, his coffee and his friends. More than anything, Howard loved fishing.

As it turns out, Steve SoDSCF0158uvenir is married to Howard Jaeger’s favorite niece, Sue. Steve and Howard spent countless hours working the Columbia for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. As Howard’s health failed, Steve figured a Lower Columbia fishing trip would be the perfect tribute to the man he loved so well, and getting in into the auction would support the work for which Jaeger had carried such a passion.

Thus, in the summer of 2011 – and every summer since – we have been on the Columbia with fishing nut Steve. One or both Homeys Bill and Kirk have been with me each year.

Somewhere in those years, I have managed to volunteer a couple overnights helping Steve work his small commercial gillnet operation.

Anyhow, our latest long and well-planned trip to play “Fishing with Buddy Steve” happened a couple weeks back. As sometimes happens, one homey’s better half had a much better plan for him than wasting another couple days of his waning youth laughing and tempting salmon on the Lower Columbia. So, Bill and an I made the pilgrimage to Clatskanie ourselves.

DSCF0165The company was great, as always, and over a couple days in the early part of the salmon run, we had just enough action to interrupt the stories and laughter and bring home fish meat.

If you want to know more about WACD, this year’s annual meeting will be in late fall. Find out more about the meeting and the work of our conservation districts at www.wacd.org. If you hope to be fishing with Steve during the 2015 Howard Jaeger Memorial Fishing Trip on the Lower Columbia, be prepared for a bidding war.

You gotta love summer.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized