While volunteering all day at the Bonneville Hatchery during Free Fishing Weekend, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Virgil Moore had an epiphany.

While volunteering all day at the Bonneville Hatchery during Free Fishing Weekend, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Virgil Moore had an epiphany.

"As I was out there helping kids catch fish, I was thinking how much fun it would be if they were my grandkids," said Moore, 55. "It made me reflect on the important things in life."

That reflection, Moore said, played a large role in his resignation as head of the ODFW this week, moving back to his old haunts at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game — along with his wife, two children and their two grandchildren, ages 9 and 2.

Moore leaves after less than one year on the job — and a week after shepherding the agency's budget through the Oregon Legislature — to become Idaho's head of fisheries.

The job opened shortly after the Free Fishing Weekend event June 9. Moore tendered his resignation Monday to Marla Rae, chairwoman of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Gov. Ted Kulongoski's office made it public Friday.

After taking the helm here in July, Moore had earned high marks from those within and outside the 1,400-employee agency charged with promoting and protecting Oregon's fish and wildlife while managing hunting and fishing for them, Rae said.

A charismatic man who wore his emotions on his sleeve, Moore's homesickness was evident to Rae and others who worked closely with him.

"He had a good legislative session and he had a good six-month evaluation," Rae said. "On Free Fishing Weekend, he spent the whole day up there. I think that was the button-pusher for him."

Mike Carrier, Kulongoski's natural resources policy adviser, praised Moore for quick strides in improving agency morale, for retooling the department's information-education programs and for running an agency with "transparency" that pleased legislators and the public.

"He set an example of openness and candor that will stay with the department for some time," Carrier said in a Friday interview.

Moore's resignation is effective July 12, the day the seven-member commission next meets, in Lincoln City.

Rae said she will recommend the commission name Roy Elicker as interim director. As the agency's deputy director, Elicker was Moore's second-in-command as well as runner-up to the job during last summer's search.

Elicker also was interim director after former director Lindsay Ball moved from the ODFW to the state Department of Administrative Services in January 2006.

Carrier said no decision has been made about the depth and breadth of the search for a new director.

"The governor wants some time to think about this," Carrier said.

Moore said his resignation reflected no reservations about the agency, the commission or Oregon.

"Like many things in life, you have to be well-rounded and in balance," Moore said Friday. "I'm out of balance now.

"This is an opportunity to get back to close family and friends and get back in balance," he said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.