You probably never met Dave Boucher. You probably never think of him when you reel in a trout or a salmon, or when you hop off the boat after a beautiful day of fishing with family and friends.
You probably don’t realize he was a fisheries biologist for more than 30 years, and devoted his life to protecting native fish and providing fishing opportunities for Mainers and those who love to visit here.
Therefore, you surely never thought of thanking Boucher for a job well done.
That’s a shame, says retired fisheries biologist Dave Basley, who contacted me a few weeks back asking if I had any plans to write about the man he calls his best friend.
Boucher died in March after suffering a heart attack. He was just 56 years old.
Basley knew Boucher for 30 years, and worked alongside him for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Boucher’s accomplishments were hardly noticed in the press, his pal said, and that was an oversight.
In personal chats and email exchanges with some of Boucher’s peers, it became apparent that all of his colleagues felt the same way.
At the time of his death, Boucher was the fisheries management supervisor — he’d also worked as a biologist in several of the state’s regions, including the tradition-rich Aroostook and Rangeley areas — and continued to make a difference.
“As the fishery division management supervisor, Dave was not only a key component in the fishery division hierarchy, but the glue that held us together through some trying times,” Gordon “Nels” Kramer, the regional biologist for the Penobscot region, said in an email. “In his eyes, his primary task was keeping the division focused and moving forward by reminding each and every one of us how important the inland sport fisheries of the State of Maine are to its anglers.”
Kramer said that even after Boucher moved up through the ranks, he remained a friend to all the biologists he’d worked with. And he never needed much of an excuse to abandon the halls of bureaucracy in Augusta, head for the woods, and get his hands dirty.
“His strong commitment to assisting the regions had him in the field and away from Augusta at every opportunity,” Kramer wrote. “He loved nothing more than taking part in various field assignments with the regional fisheries biologists, whether it be netting brook trout in a small pond in Baxter, trapping and tagging salmon in Rangeley, electrofishing for bass in the Belgrades or radio-tracking togue in his native Aroostook County.”
Fisheries biologist Scott Davis said it may take years before Boucher’s impact can be fully measured.
“Like many of us in this outfit, David lived his job. He took it home with him and never left it,” Davis wrote in an email. “It’s difficult to fully comprehend the importance and influence of David’s work in fisheries at the present time. The magnitude of his legacy will be better understood somewhere farther down the road. Like many fisheries issues, the results are not realized until some time has passed and the real changes start to take effect.”
But outside of their work relationship, Davis also shared a deep friendship.
“I have worked with Dave for almost 30 years,” Davis wrote. “He was a mentor, colleague, and most importantly, a great friend that I will very sadly miss.”
Peter Bourque, a retired biologist and fisheries administrator, explained that Boucher came into his job with the DIF&W with a good skill set, then built upon it by spending time working in the department’s research group. That made him a valuable resource who field biologists called on often.
“He was a consummate fisheries scientist, just because of his background,” Bourque said during a phone interview. “He was very serious about his work, but he was kind of a fun-loving guy. He was a good listener, and he got along well with the sportsmen and women of the state.”
Basley and Bourque remembered spending time bird hunting and deer hunting with Boucher out of Bourque’s camp, and about Boucher’s skill in finding what they called “unicorn” deer — over the years he took two deer that had only a single antler.
Basley said losing his friend so early has been tough.
“It was not just our job, but our life, and we both knew how fortunate we were to experience it,” Basley wrote. “At the same time, he knew the importance of his family, who were a definite priority in his life. He wore a big smile whenever he spoke of his wife, Christa, and son, Paul. I had the affection for Dave that I would a brother.”
Kramer said he thinks Boucher’s passion for the job ultimately cost him his life.
“I do think that Dave’s strong commitment to the resource and anglers is what ultimately led to his early passing,” Kramer wrote. “He put it all out there and cared so much that the stress was simply too much for his heart.”
And for that devotion, this Maine angler offers a sincere “Thank you.”
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter.