A local fisherman is on a mission to rid our region's rivers of all trash. He's founded a nonprofit called Riverjunky that hands out prizes to people who pick up trash when they see it near the water.
Jarrod Kirkley is a lifelong fisherman.
"We're all conservationists. I've been fishing my whole life and every time you go fishing, you know, we take out more than we brought in," said Kirkley.
He's always cared about preserving that way of life, which is why he was so upset by something that happened this summer when he was out on the Kalama River.
"I caught a nice steelhead and I got it up on shore and then I found it had a hypodermic needle stuck in its side from flopping around on the shore, so obviously I let it go," said Kirkley.
That was the last straw for Kirkley. It wasn't the first time something like this had happened, but he was determined to make it the last.
"I went home that night and just thought, we gotta do something," said Kirkley.
Kirkley developed a plan to launch his own river way garbage clean up service. A nonprofit he's named Riverjunky.
"I came up with idea and design to further the project by gifting people for picking up the trash," said Kirkley.
Kirkley thought he'd motivate people to pick up trash for prizes. Everything from $2 fishing lures to $200 fishing poles. All people have to do is snap a photo as evidence they picked up trash near the water.
Kirkley says people get some sort of prize regardless of how much trash they pick up, as long as they upload a photo to their Facebook page.
At first, Kirkley says he shelled out cash from his own pocket to pay for those prizes. But, that got expensive fast.
"I started reaching out to sponsors and they jumped on board as soon as they heard the idea," said Kirkley. "Most people, they're outdoorsmen, they see the need for it everywhere they go. Wildlife is being destroyed and we're slowly losing rivers and waterways in general."
Those sponsors like Lamiglass and Clancy's Guided Sports Fishing helped him reel in even bigger prizes for volunteers to clean up local rivers.
That all happened back in September. In just a few months' time, the nonprofit held group cleanups along the Kalama, Cowlitz, Puyallup and Columbia rivers.
"We see everything from couches, toilets to hypodermic needles," said Kirkley.
Cleanups that yielded more trash than he ever imagined.
"So far we're pushing 15,000 pounds of trash," Kirkley added.
That number changes constantly.
"We're all avid fishermen, so we're on water a couple times a week at least," said Kirkley.
His goal now, is to move their cleanup efforts beyond the Pacific Northwest and across the entire country.
"The design of this is if one person is cleaning up trash they're making the world one times better, if there's 100,000 people doing that they're making our world 100,000 times better," said Kirkley.
If you have a spot you want Riverjunky volunteers to check out call 1-866-RVR-JNKY