When Tom Rumreich was hired by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, it was five days after he graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in fisheries science.
“Ever since I was 15 years old when I decided I wanted to be a fish biologist, I wanted to do something positive for fisheries resources,” Rumreich said.
And, in this career, as a Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program biologist, Rumreich said he’s had many opportunities to do exactly that.
Rumreich’s goals for the program have always been to educate the public, including children, about fisheries resources, as well as to get people involved in “doing good things for fish.”
His favorite part of the job over the years has been working with children.
One highlight has been a project in which fall Chinook salmon are held and fed for a couple weeks on the campus of Blossom Gulch Elementary School in Coos Bay each year. When released, they travel as small fish a half-mile under the city of Coos Bay. Against conventional wisdom for how salmon will travel, as adult fish they swim back under the city and return to the school’s campus, Rumreich said.
The goal of this project was to create a fishery on the boardwalk in downtown Coos Bay, and it has been an enormous success, he said. Rumreich has witnessed everyone from children to dressed-up workers on their lunch breaks catching salmon from the dock.
One of his favorite memories with ODFW happened after the Millicoma Interpretive Center along the Millicoma River east of Coos Bay was completed.
When the first class – senior biology students from North Bend High School – visited it, Rumreich overheard the youths talking, including one who said the field trip there was the greatest day he’d ever had.
“There’s nothing better,” Rumreich said. “It’s not about just having fun. It’s about making a difference.”
Tom retired on August 31, after working at ODFW for 37 years, nearly all of them in the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program. Tom’s passion, enthusiasm, and years of experience will be missed by staff, the community, the thousands of volunteers he has worked with, and the thousands of children and adults who were able to make an enjoyable connection with fish. Thank you, Tom.