When Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer Dennis Brandt watched a young man mishandle a steelhead, he saw an opportunity to educate and engage with anglers in a positive way.
Officer Brandt was patrolling the Little Salmon River near Riggins, Idaho when he watched a young man fail to properly handle a steelhead before releasing it. According to a witness whose account was 1 in an outdoor blog, the fish was allowed to flop around in mud and rocks for several seconds before the angler grabbed it by the gills and threw it into the river. Experienced anglers know that releasing a fish should be done carefully. The fish should be revived before release, and one should never handle the gills.
The nearby angler describes how Officer Brandt handled the situation: "He came down and very tactfully but firmly admonished the fellow for his careless handling of the fish."
As luck would have it, that nearby angler hooked a nice steelhead himself, and according to his account, Officer Brandt surprised him a second time when he offered to take a photograph of the fish and email it to him.
"When I got back to the motel and cranked up my laptop, there was Dennis' e-mail with the photo and a nice note thanking me for fishing Idaho waters," said the angler, explaining he lives in Washington State. "I was so impressed by Dennis' courtesy, professionalism and friendly demeanor that I sent an e-mail to his supervisor in McCall to let him know what a model CO he had working the Little Salmon River."
Officer Brandt says he appreciates the praise, but is a bit puzzled by the angler's enthusiasm, since he was just doing what comes naturally in his daily duties.
"I know there are some out there that specifically try to do the wrong thing and those are the people I try to locate," says Officer Brandt. "In the meantime, I am a liaison between wildlife managers and the public. We interact with sportsmen every day, and have a huge impact on their view of the agency and its policies."