Monofilament Line Recycling

monofilament Heart lake 500

Plastic waste polluting or marine environments is a major issue that is damaging habitat and wildlife in Skagit County and around the world.  One of the sources, monofilament fishing line, is a focus area that CVP volunteers are helping to address.  Recycling tubes such as the one shown installed at Heart Lake in Anacortes have been placed at 22 popular fishing locations in our area from Bowman Bay to the Marblemount Fish Hatchery.

The project started by the Skagit Beach Watcher volunteer, Don Coleman, is being carried forward under the leadership of CVP volunteers Dick Kent and Glenda Alm – thanks for taking over the lead!  Friends continues to provide funding to covers costs of the hardware and labeling of the equipment.

A team of CVP volunteers has signed up to be a steward for each of the installation sites to empty and properly recycle the monofilament line deposited in the tubes.  Unfortunately, we often find other garbage in them that has to be sorted out from the plastic waste.  But at least the fishing line and other garbage aren’t being tossed into our lakes and saltwater estuaries!

Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Citizen’s Stewardship Committee in Action

An Afternoon to Remember -  by Pete Haase

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Friday June 2, 2017 was an afternoon many of us will remember for a long time.  Nineteen youngsters and some parents from the mixed 1 – 2 – 3 grade class taught by Abigail Ross at Anacortes Island View Elementary hopped out of a bus at 12:30 at the Fidalgo Bay Resort on a promise that they could go do surveys for surf smelt eggs.  A dozen of us big guy volunteers stood there as ready as we felt possible, wondering what we were in for.

This story starts in January.  Jack Middleton and I were up at the Bald Eagle Festival in Rockport on a Saturday doing a presentation and an outside demonstration about Forage Fish, the kind of thing that’s part of our Fidalgo Bay Aquatic Reserve Citizen Stewardship Committee (FBARCSC) education mission.  A lady leaned over the edge of the deck at the Interpretive Center there and asked – “Say, can you do that for a class of kids?”  Jack jumps right up and says – “Sure.  That is a great idea!”   The lady was Abigail.

Coincidently, also in about January, Glen Alexander, an educator at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Bayview, had asked Barbara Lechner and Michelle Marquardt if they could expand their Trail Tales Forage Fish Interpretive station into a program for young children.  They did that with great success.  Somehow, also coincidently, that led to them sharing their interpretive station and activities with the Before School program at ... Island View Elementary School ... again with great success.  Now we HAD to produce.  

With a lot of help and creative ideas, we made some simplified field sheets about surf smelt surveying and a “script” for the big guys to follow as they led the little ones on the beach.  Our FBARCSC was able to buy many clipboards, print all the sheets and instructions, and supply all the materials needed; like gravel scoopers, collection bags, sample jars, rulers and GPS units.  Our local Marine Resources Committee (MRC) let us borrow their complete Forage Fish Survey equipment kit as did the Whatcom (MRC.)  With the set we have for FBARCSC that made three complete stations we could operate and keep the kids well occupied.

Padilla Bay donated their microscope with camera and display screen, with an operator, and a local volunteer citizen did the same.  Many folks from our usual Forage Fish survey teams and also from recent Salish Sea Stewards classes came to help.  The Samish Indian Nation let us use the clubhouse, facilities, and the beach on the shore of Fidalgo Bay.

The teacher had the kids divided into 5 groups of 4 and each had a name – like the “Fun Forage Fish Finders” and “Soaring Skagits.”  We had two of our volunteers and a parent with each group!

A few days prior, Michelle and Barbara took their fun forage fish program into the classroom and gave the kids a great understanding of surf smelt and good beaches and why they are important – much of which they had already studied.  When they “hit the beach” they knew what they needed to do.

It was quite a show.  Each group headed for a spot on the beach where they thought it might be good for surf smelt to have spawned.  The kids did as much of the work as they could.  They stretched out a big yellow measuring tape and found out how many steps they needed to measure 33 and 50 feet – distances needed to do a survey.  Then they began digging and looking in the sand and gravel and collected a nice bag of sample material from a 100 ft “transect.”  Most of the groups were able to find eggs in the gravel, right at their spot, with their eyes and even better with a hand-lens.  One group found a HUGE swath!  On their field sheet they documented the GPS location of their sample site, the amount of shading, the type of substrate, and the distance from the high tide line to their transect line – all data collected during a normal survey.

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They were so excited to have a bag of gravel with some eggs in there.  Back they came and rinsed the gravel in sieves to separate the eggs and small particles and then ran the results through the fun “Blue Bowl” to better isolate the eggs into a sample jar.  Now they could see so many!  Then they took their sample inside to the microscope for a lot of ooohing and ahhhing as they saw their “finds” up close and in various stages of development. Finally they took the eggs back to the beach and did their best to get them back into a place where some will survive and hatch.

A young fellow in my group said – “The BEST day ever!”  Most of us felt like that too at the time.

Forage Fish Interpretive Station Thrills Young Students . . . and Adults

LogoTBtrspntFriends of Skagit Beaches volunteers, Barbara Lechner and Michelle Marquardt, have developed a very popular interactive forage fish interpretive station and now expanded that into a program for Junior Ecologists (ages 5 – 9).  Through the use of slides, props and participation, children have a fun experience learning about forage fish - what forage fish are, why forage fish are so important, who eats forage fish, and what makes a healthy beach for Surf Smelt egg spawning.  The program is concluded with a forage fish song sing-a-long and coloring pages reinforcing the information. This type of interactive learning helps students develop a personal connection to our marine environment, which we believe helps to foster a life-long commitment to environmental stewardship.

On May 31, the program was presented to a class at Island View Elementary to prepare them to search for surf smelt eggs on the beach (see more about this in the article below.)

And it’s not just for kids . . . Throughout the summer and early fall the Forage Fish Interpretation station will be going out on the beach during forage fish egg surveys (weather permitting).  Watch for us out on the shores of Fidalgo Bay and Bowman Bay.

Thanks to Barbara and Michelle for your hard work and creative energy in making this program shine!

Forage Fish station at Bowman

Volunteer Opportunities

As most of you know, Friends is an all-volunteer organization and we depend on our Board and members to help us with the work we do in the community.  We are currently preparing for upcoming events you read about above and could use help.  Below is a list of current volunteer opportunities we have and if you have an interest in getting involved in supporting Friends with your time, we would certainly appreciate it.  If you can help with any of the activities below, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

National Estuaries Day – Discovery Passport: we need help pulling together information and getting our Discovery Passports updated, printed and assembled for the August 12th event that will be part of Fidalgo Bay Day.

National Estuaries Day – Passport Station:  we need a few volunteers to sign up for shifts to work at our information table and hand out passports and prizes and answer questions about the activity.

National Estuaries Day – Coloring Contest:  we need a few volunteers to sign up for shifts to help with the coloring contest table. 

National Estuaries Day Staging - Setup and takedown of tables and awnings and packing up activities supplies and materials.  Arrive at 9:30AM and help set up tables and a few stations, as well as distribute station flags and information to participating groups that will be hosting a passport station.

Trail Tales sign maintenance - Friends needs some volunteers to help with keeping our trail signs clean.  Weather, birds and bugs can take a toll on the signs and we could use a few volunteers willing to get out on the trail with water spray bottles, towels and toothbrushes to keep the signs in good shape for those stopping to read them on the trail.  If you walk or ride your bike on the trail, we’ll help equip you with a kit for sign cleaning.

Fidalgo Shoreline Academy - We are in the initial planning stage for this annual symposium/fundraiser for Friends of Skagit Beaches.  If you can help with the event planning or are willing to help at the day of the event, we are looking for you. 

Website and social media - Friends could use a few tech-savvy volunteers to help us keep our online presence update date and current.  If you’ve got the skills, we’ve got the work! 

Friends Board - In January, of each year we elect new board members interested in helping to manage and grow the Friends nonprofit.  If you have an interest in serving on our board, or just want to know more about it, please let us know and we’ll arrange to invite you to an upcoming meeting or setup a one on one meeting with you.

Lecture Series - The Friends annual Lecture Series is a very popular annual event we sponsor January through April.  The project team starts work in August to plan for the next lecture series.  We would like to recruit a few new volunteers to help with the planning, advertising, coffee service, and setup for the 2018 season.  Please let us know if you’d like to join this amazing project and get to know a bunch of incredible volunteers who make it so popular.

2017 Lecture Series - Another record-breaking year!

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The Friends Lecture Series volunteer team has hit another one out of the ballpark!  The 2017 season was a record-breaker in total attendance for the year and for the highest attendance ever at a single lecture.  The season opened with an audience of 290 crowding into every nook and cranny of the Reid Harbor Room of the NW ESD Building to hear “Research and Insights on Northwest Coast Humpback, Blue, and Gray Whales and their Incursions into the Salish Sea” by  John Calambokidis, research biologist, Cascadia Research Cooperative, Olympia, WA. This gave our planning team a bit of heartburn as we were worried about having to find yet another larger venue.  Fortunately, attendance at the following lectures dropped back to more normal levels (110 – 172) ending with a new record of 696 attendeesfor the season.

Obviously the community values the Lecture Series during the long winter months.  Audience evaluations confirm that with praise such as . . . “This was excellent. . . . Fantastic! . . . I learned a lot. . . . Great photos, dynamic speaker!  . . . The series is very useful to the community. . . . We appreciate the ease of seating for wheelchairs. . . . Like the lectures although I don't understand everything - stretches your mind.”  Well guess what?  It stretches our mind too!

The volunteer team is taking a break over the summer but keeping their eyes and ears open for speaker candidates for the 2018 lecture series.  The dates for 2018 have already been selected:  January 19, February 16, March 16, and April 20.  We’re sure the 2018 season will again deliver high-quality educational presentations to an enthusiastic audience.  This year our volunteers “reported” 203 hours of time putting on the 2017 lecture series, which of course is less than the actual amount.

Friends would like to thank our project lead, Matt Kerschbaum, and the many others on the volunteer team who make this community event possible each year.  There are several ways volunteers support the project, including the planning team that selects and organizes the excellent speakers, the “Tiger Team” that comes early and stays late to setup and put away chairs and tables, and the kitchen crew who bake cookies and brew coffee for our audience.  Special thanks to Liz Huseby for organizing and baking fresh cookies, which helped the series bring in enough donations to cover costs and set aside a little for next year.

We’re looking for a few additional volunteers for the 2018 season, so if you’re interested in getting involved, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. let us know.  We’ll put Matt in touch with you and get you tied in with a great group of volunteers who are dedicated to making the lecture series a great event every year – and having a good time while they do it.

Thanks to our amazing Lecture Series volunteer team!

Jan 2017 large crowd