Board of Directors
Jonathan Stumpf, Chair
Backstory: Jonathan grew up fishing the high country creeks and streams of Colorado. After a brief spell in Missoula, Montana, he finally landed in Seattle, Washington in 2008. Passionate about fishing and even more so about the environment in which fish live, he was quickly seduced by the mystique of steelhead and the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest.
What he does: Jonathan works for a pollution prevention/climate change nonprofit in downtown Seattle, running point on the website and digital communications. Thankfully, he can see the Olympics from his office.
First Steelhead: After a seemingly long and fishless, snowy day on Idaho’s Salmon River in late November, he managed to hook and land a seven-pound hatchery brat on the last run of the day. Unfortunately, he released it.
Personal Philosophy: “To borrow a line from Sam Snyder, ‘The future of our fisheries depend upon diverse communities, diverse fisheries, and diverse thinking. If you cherish your habit, religion, sport, or whatever you want to call it, I am inclined to say that you have no business in this sport if you don’t take conservation seriously. Either speak up or get off the water.’”
Brian Bennett, Director
Backstory: Growing up in Boston, MA, Brian was far removed from steelhead and the myriad of challenges they face. All that changed in 2004 when he took a job with Patagonia as the REI Account Manager and relocated to Washington State. As a passionate fly fisherman who cut his teeth plying the rivers and lakes of Colorado and Wyoming, he quickly embraced the challenge of chasing steelhead on the fly.
First Steelhead: Brian hooked his first wild steelhead, a beautiful dime bright 8 pound hen, swinging a blue Tomine String thing on the Cole Slaw run, on the Buckley River in BC.
What He Does: Brian is the Fly Fishing Sales Manager for Patagonia. In that capacity has been active in helping direct support from Patagonia, and the fly fishing industry at large, to the WSC.
Personal Philosophy: “For me, being passionate about fishing for steelhead goes hand in hand with being passionate about protecting these special fish and their habitat.”
Luke Kelly, Vice Chair
Backstory: Fishing since he could hold a fishing rod, Luke’s passion for exploring fisheries changed when he began fly fishing at age 9 and again when his family moved from Indiana to Colorado’s Roaring Fork valley at age 14. Luke began visiting steelhead waters of the Northwest in the 1990s. For the past six years Luke has been bouncing back and forth between Colorado and Washington, and in December of 2010, he made the permanent move to Seattle. Luke has fished for many different species on several continents, and steelheading has remained as one of his favorite pursuits.
First Steelhead: As with many steelhead fly anglers, Luke had to pay his dues before landing his first steelhead. It was his second trip and seventh day fly fishing for steelhead when Luke experienced his first pull. It was an October day on the Deschutes River, and by this point Luke had been worn down to simply going through the motions. Imagine his surprise when an eight pound wild hen grabbed his swinging fly and immediately headed for the Pacific! “I will never forget that first fish and it still humbles me today. I had researched the fish, the rivers, the heritage, and the fly fishing pioneers, but it all came together when I shared my first moment with that first steelhead. It was the catalyst of something that will last my lifetime.”
What He Does: Since graduating from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a degree in Aquatic Environmental Sciences in 2001, Luke has been working in the field of fisheries management and stream restoration. A snapshot of Luke’s career includes: working for several private environmental consulting/engineering firms, a federal agency’s fishery department, a Northwest Native American Tribe’s fishery department, as well as founding his own fishery management company where he lead many projects that entailed the survey-evaluation-permitting-construction-and restoration of stream habitats. His experiences over the past decade have involved habitat evaluations and restoration projects on over 100 miles of streams in CO, WY, NM, and WA. Luke is also grateful to have been the president and co-founder of a nonprofit watershed organization in Colorado. Aside from fisheries, Luke has also been a fly fishing guide since 1997. Although guiding is not his main priority, Luke enjoys it immensely and he has begun guiding his clients for trout and steelhead in Washington.
Personal Philosophy: “I have been seduced by water and its wilderness since I was very young, and my fascination naturally matured into a passion, and finally into a career working on, in, and around freshwater and marine ecosystems. I believe it is a privilege to be on the board of the Wild Steelhead Coalition, and it is a pleasure working with such fine people who share a vision of wild steelhead conservation. These fish are very unique, complex, and spectacular, and their future is uncertain. I believe with diligence and collaboration, wild steelhead will be swimming in our waters for generations to come.”
Mike Erickson, Director
Backstory: Mike grew up in the Seattle area in the 60s and 70s, and has fished many of Washington’s rivers and lakes since he was a kid. He has an active interest in the outdoors, including climbing, biking, hiking, snow sports and fishing. He has travelled to various parts of North America to catch and release local fish of many species.
What he does: Mike is a member of Summit Law Group and has a law practice concentrated on corporate and securities law. He has a particular interest in representing clients involved in the outdoor industry, including adventure/active/eco travel companies, outdoor equipment manufacturers and retailers, outfitters and guide services.
First Steelhead: Mike was researching this topic and recalls coming across a photo of himself and his father labeled “Hoh River 1964,” from when he was six years old. He doesn’t remember if he caught anything that day, but, regardless, that was the start of a lifelong love of fishing.
Personal Philosophy: “Growing up in Washington State, and having read and heard countless stories about fishing “back in the day,” I am very aware of the damage that has been done over the years to our wild Steelhead runs. I volunteered to serve on the Board of the WSC to see if I could help the process of restoring this vital resource.”
Chuck Ehlert, Director
Backstory: Chuck grew up all over the United States, but spent a great deal of time in Southwest Washington. He remembers fishing the various rivers of Pacific County and says that is where the passion for the outdoors began. Throughout his U.S. and international travels, he has fished for all kinds of species, but says nothing compares to a wild steelhead of the Northwest.
First Steelhead: His first steelhead came as a young age from the North River off the Willapa Bay. This event has left him where he is today, sleeping in the bed of his truck many a nights throughout the year in order to get on the water at first light or sneaking out of the house early with his dog Cheyenne and a spey rod to spend the day standing in the rain.
What He Does: Chuck retired from the United States Marine Corps in 2009 and now runs a business out of Kirkland, Washington.
Personal Philosophy: “I joined the Wild Steelhead Coalition Board in order to assist in the recovery of a magnificent fish that has challenged me personally and provided me an opportunity to find balance in life.”
Chris Wilke, Director
Backstory: Chris was born and raised in Seattle, WA with access to all that the Pacific Northwest outdoors has to offer: mountains, forests, rivers, Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. Chris’ educational and professional interests have taken him into areas of marine science, music and electronics. His formal education is in jazz music and liberal arts at Cornish College.
Whether it is sailing, skiing, SCUBA, fishing, shellfishing, paddling or hiking, Chris has always found a way to experience the best of his natural surroundings. His first experiences with fishing came exploring high mountain lakes for trout and casting for salmon and bottom fish with light tackle. Eventually he took up fly fishing which inevitably lead him to the allure of moving water and the challenge of tempting trout and steelhead in rivers.
First Steelhead: As with many people, Chris’ first steelhead came after several years of repetitive trying and “paying his dues”. Then, when he hooked and lost two fish in one day, it would mean another three years of dues paid before actually landing one. Finally, one day on the classic waters of the North Fork Stillaguamish River, Chris was rewarded with the catch and release of a wild Deer Creek summer run steelhead, caught on a dry fly while fishing for cutthroat trout, with his dog Kai as witness.
What he does: Chris’ professional career is dedicated to protecting our waters from pollution. He is the Executive Director and Puget Soundkeeper at Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, a non-profit water quality advocacy organization in Seattle, WA focused on protecting and preserving the waters of Puget Sound. Chris also is the Pacific Regional Representative to the international Waterkeeper Council, where he represents the 29 licensed Pacific Region Waterkeeper organizations to the 200-plus member Waterkeeper Alliance, based in New York, NY.
Personal Philosophy: Although personally dedicated to catch and release of wild fish in rivers, Chris believes that whether no matter the method, fishing is a privilege that comes with responsibility. Anglers owe it to the resource to learn the ways and needs of the fish and the issues that may threaten them. No action is without impact, and it is important to practice strong ethics and to give back to the resource that gives us enjoyment and occasional sustenance, to ensure that it is viable for future generations.