Richard Echols is New Lakes Ecologist

Fri, January 8, 2016 | Lakes and Parks

Richard Echols Biography

I was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia just west of Staunton. I spent the summers of my growing up years fishing and the fall hunting family property where I gained valuable knowledge concerning the stewardship of fish and wildlife. I earned my bachelor of science degree in biology from Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia in 1994. I began my fisheries career as a trout stocker in remote mountain streams with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in October of 1996 under Paul Bugas and ironically, Darrell Bowman. My first assignment was to remove downed timber that blocked stocking access resulting from a hurricane. This was a massive undertaking. I also worked as a creel clerk and a fisheries technician while at VDGIF.

During that time, I met Kim my future wife. She was completing her master’s project on Virginia’s black bear. Kids soon arrived and I left fisheries for a better paying job with a landscape/propane company in 2000. I made manager of the landscape division after two years, but desperately longed to get back into the fisheries field. My wife and I started and operated Wildlife Oasis L.L.C., a fish and wildlife management company, for a few years while I continued to work in landscaping. In August of 2004, I started graduate school at the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center within Southern Illinois University. I looked at trying to improve walleye fingerling survival after stocking by providing “natural” conditions in rearing ponds at the hatchery. I completed my studies in 2007, ultimately earning a master’s of science in zoology.

In May of 2007, I became the assistant district fisheries biologist for Kentucky’s eastern district. We were responsible for numerous small impoundments (50 – 1,200 acres) and sought to provide varied fishing experiences at each lake. The landscape was very similar to Bella Vista and many of the challenges were the same.

In June of 2009, I followed my wife to south Texas as she took a giant leap forward in her career. I immediately began volunteering at Uvalde National Fish Hatchery. I became the hatchery’s fish biologist after two months and ultimately served as the acting hatchery manager. The hatchery raises catfish, but the current focus has shifted to the rearing of endangered species of the desert southwest such as the fountain darter, Devils River minnow, Comanche Springs pupfish, bonytail, and razorback sucker. The hatchery even houses endangered salamanders and rice. I recently left that position to become the new Lake Ecology & Fisheries Manager here at Bella Vista. I am extremely fortunate to be selected for this position and am excited to get my feet wet, pun intended.

I have three daughters ages 15, 13, and 11 who are all very intelligent, but as different from each other as night and day. I continue to enjoy fishing, hunting, gardening, and baking. I hope to get back into wine making, golf, and competitive tennis during my time here. I also intend to explore the many natural opportunities that northwest Arkansas has to offer.