KEVIN TATE: Aquatic biology survey shows more than one way to look at life

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

There’s a certain peace to be found in a life outside, specifically in a life on the water.
The big, open spaces are home to so many of the security blankets that warm us through life, from the rhythmic rocking of a boat in the arms of the waves, to the smooth hush of the breeze, to the warm gaze of the sun smiling down, there’s an underlying tranquility that helps define it all. The water calls to us when we’re away, speaks to us when we’re near, always welcomes us home. Mother Ocean indeed.
Under the blue, wind, water and air are not separate elements, but are all interpretations of the same, varied in density and direction, kinetic ebb and flow across one cohesive blend. Birds sail above and fish cruise below while mankind sways in the cradle that marks the difference. You needn’t be on salt water to feel the pull of the tide.
These places hold a degree of peace that becomes apparent in the people. It’s an element of their character and a part of who they are, but any willing eye can see it, especially an eye that’s been too long away. It’s a character trait, something that passes for patience but is more in the tone of simply understanding, of simply being.
Kurt Lakin, who piloted his first boats while still in the single-digit ages, has been with the TVA more than 20 years as a part of the aquatic monitoring and management team in charge of resource stewardship.
He and his coworkers spend spring and fall on the large lakes formed by the authority’s impoundments along the Tennessee River, surveying fish with an eye on ensuring the continued health of the reservoirs. In a typical day, he operates a 22-foot v-hull boat with a 150-horse outboard on one end and an electrofishing rig on the other while three crewmates net, measure, weigh and release samples of the selected aquatic habitat’s residents.
This past Tuesday was no different. Windy or still, high waves or calm, Lakin’s boat-handling never suffered or varied as he positioned the craft with a skill and precision that spoke of decades of experience. Balanced in a crow’s nest affixed to the bow, Stan Stamey netted the temporarily-stunned fish with a technique and skill to rival Lakin’s at the helm and, amidship, John Justice measured, weighed and recorded the data with like aplomb, all three taking every opportunity to share what they knew and why they were there.
Despite a full compliment of observers underfoot and surface conditions often anything but ideal, the three worked with a swift harmony and ease that marked them a part of the elements, rather than apart from, a sure sign they’ve found their true place in the sun.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Production for Mossy Oak in West Point.