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Fish & Wildlife | Science | NW Life | local | Oregon Field Guide Summer Series

Drift Diving The Wilson River

Drift Diving

“The Wilson’s a rare case,” says Mike Lees.

“Not all rivers have that many fish.” 

Lees should know. He’s a fish biologist on the Wilson River near Tillamook, and his job is to count the number of juvenile steelhead, salmon and trout that hatch in the river each year.


Oregon Field Guide Summer Series

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To do this, he dons a wetsuit and snorkels up and down the chilly pools where the fish like to hide. Finding them is no easy task, but Lees has had lots of practice. 

“You’ve just gotta find the best hiding spots and keep at it,” he says.

The numbers Lees collects become part of a historic database, to let scientists and anglers know how many fish are returning to the area and thriving season after season. Lees counts the fish in the summer, before the fall rains begin.

By winter, the Wilson will be open to steelhead fishing. It’s considered one of the best fishing rivers in the Northwest, thanks in part to the work of fish biologists like Lees who are willing to dive under the surface and report back.  

Learn more about fishing the Wilson River from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Oregon Field Guide Wilson River summer

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