The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lost one of its best
allies and friends this week when Win Self, an eastern Washington net pen fish-rearing
Self, 87, and his wife Helen, who died last fall, were owners of the first resort on
Lake Roosevelt. The resort is located at Seven Bays. In 1985 they requested and
signed an agreement with WDFW to rear fish in a floating net pen to improve fishing.
Although net pen fish-rearing was introduced to western Washington about 1980, the
Selfs' project was the first of its kind east of the Cascades.
The original agreement committed the Selfs to rearing 500,000 rainbow trout
over five years for release into Lake Roosevelt. The Selfs provided the site, equipment
and feed while WDFW provided trout fry and technical direction.
Net pen fish-rearing can be more cost-effective than fish hatcheries because
there are no hauling or acclimation losses, feeding costs are lower and fish are larger
when released. The technique was developed in Norway.
Thanks to the success of the Selfs' project, today there are 43 net pens rearing
up to 900,000 rainbows and kokanee annually on Lake Roosevelt. Eight are at Seven
Bays Resort, which is now owned and operated by the Spokane Indian Tribe.
At least 20 more net pens rear approximately 270,000 fish annually on other
waters throughout eastern Washington. They all rely on public-private cooperative
"Win always said 'the state can't do it all for us,' and his kind of thinking about
cooperation between government and private enterprise has really caught on," said
Gene Smith, net pen coordinator for the Lake Roosevelt Development Association,
which receives Bonneville Power Administration funds to mitigate fish habitat lost with
the construction of Grand Coulee Dam.
"Win definitely was ahead of his time," said Bruce Smith, WDFW regional
director in Spokane. "He was a pioneer in seeing the potential economic and social
benefits of increasing public recreational use of natural resources, and in working with
city, county, state, federal and tribal authorities."
Win Self never held an elected or public office, but as Smith said with a laugh, "It
just seemed like he did!" A tireless advocate for fish and wildlife recreation and
economic development, he lobbied lawmakers relentlessly and attended meetings as
late as last year.
The Selfs' legacy lives on in more than fish-rearing net pens. Their grandson,
Jeff Lombard, son of their daughter Charlotte and her husband Stewart Lombard,
works as a fish hatchery specialist at WDFW's Spokane Trout Hatchery. He got his
start in the business helping his grandfather feed fish in the first net pen at Seven Bays.