If you opt to take part in Keith Ludeman’s Beach Seine Program, be prepared to pull your weight. Ludeman, a long-time employee of Camp Casey, has put to work everyone from senior citizens to preschool students and Girl Scouts in his quest to find and share fascinating sea life from the shores off of Camp Case Conference Center.
The Beach Seine is a large U-shaped net that is deployed into the Sound off the shore. The net sits vertically in the water, with weights on the bottom and floats on top. Ropes allow people on the shore to pull the net through the water and capture sea life. Seines have been used by many cultures throughout history, including Native Americans fishing on the Columbia River.
“We take it out with a boat, go out about 150 feet. We start laying the net out, which is about 150 feet, then we come back in,” Ludeman said. “We have two ropes on the end of the nets and we divide the students into two groups and put them on the end of the ropes. We tell them it’s not a tug of war; we have them pull the ropes at the same time. Then I tell the students to line up in the row behind the receptacles where we are going to put the animals. We take them out, show them to the kids and talk about the animals,” he explained.
Many of the animals collected in the Beach Seine are transported to the Sea Lab at Camp Casey. Others are set free back into the Sound.
The Beach Seine program is only available when certain conditions exist in the Sound. “We have to do it at low tide and we can’t do it at too low of tide, because some tides are so low that I can’t even get the boat in the water,” Ludeman explained.
Ludeman’s interest in marine biology is evidently a lifelong passion. “My mom said she was afraid to walk into my bedroom because she didn’t know what she was going to find,” he said. His childhood curiosity followed him through 23 years in the Navy where he continued studying marine life, biology and zoology.
“I’ve taken courses from local colleges while in the Navy. When I got here to Whidbey Island in 1962 I started walking the beaches and collecting dead animals that I found and studying them,” he said.
Ludeman has worked for Camp Casey since 1983, providing opportunities for campers to experience marine life and learn about the Puget Sound environment. He built the Camp Casey Sea Lab and also provides an educational Forest and Meadow walk for guests at the Conference Center.