I'm working as a Fish Culturist at Hidden Falls Salmon Hatchery in a remote spot near Sitka, Alaska! AM I CRAZY!? I'm starting to think so...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fish and Nets for days!

Huhh... I guess it's been a while. Haven't had all that much to talk about I guess...

Today is a BEAUUUUUUTIFUL day here in Alaska... it could be about 60 degrees and sunny. Right after I get done with this, I'm going to track down Deena and see if she'll go fishing with me. I've been giving the mission to catch a King Salmon for a party.

What is the party, you ask!? A fish RELEASE party that we are having tomorrow... for the obvious point that we have RELEASED all our fish! Today Dan is releasing his 4 pens of the "late large" chum that he still has out front, which he is gladly saying goodbye too! All the fishing being gone is a good enough reason to party around here so there is going to be steaks and fish galore! I'll get to the fish galore in a minute!

What have I been doing lately? Ehh boring work. Since most of the fish are gone except Dan's chum, it's starting to be maintenance work time at the hatchery. I have helped feed his fish out there some... but for the past few days, it's been net mending. This is where we spread out the nets that the fish have been living in which have been "cleaned!" (I say that loosely cause some aren't cleaned very well... we got one with a rotting chinook in it, maggots included! Ya know when your dog rolls around in poop... yeah it smelled kinda like that... but AMPLIFIED!) Then we hoist them up by the corners so they are somewhat spread out and hung and just sew up holes. This part isn't too bad but when we have to go folding them up at the end is what kills me! Some of the nets are HUUUUUUGE so it's tough... I just went into the incubation room and tried to take some pictures. I'll show them later. I also got some pictures of the incubators that I talked about a while ago... A few days ago, a few of us helped paint in the apartment that is getting built here for Angie, a permanent employee. That was kinda fun and gave me a little extra money. :-)

Anyhow, besides that, there's been alot of fishing going on. Not so much by me, but by everyone else. Lots of fishing by a pole and lots of long line action. The guys like to set this long line that goes 600 feet or something... depending on what they want to do. I THINK it lays on the bottom but I'm not totally sure. Anyhow, they catch alot of rockfish and halibut and some other stuff on those. Well, this construction dude that was here set one and ended up pulling a 130 lb. halibut off of it. I know I told this to mom and she had no idea how big that could be... it was about 5'4" in length or something. I actually didn't see it though. Then the guys set one the other day and we watched them pull that but they didn't get that much... a small halibut and a bunch of rockfish. A ton of us went along to watch... we were hecklers! :-)

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This is the Hidden Falls Beard Patrol showing off the catches of the day! This is Adam (in the blue) with a few salmon that were caught near the lagoon. Tim and Dan have the long line catch.

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Pretty right!? This was at around 9:30pm while the guys were pulling the long line.

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Alright, I've been raving about this huge waterfall near the hatchery. I always passed it driving to Takatz. Well finally I got a picture. Man, I love this waterfall!

Well Dan and Adam set one yesterday and got the moneyload! They set about 30 hooks on this thing and in the first 7 hooks, they already had two ~50 lb. halibut, a big fat yelloweye rockfish (looks alot like a massive goldfish), an MONSTER halibut which they predicted over 100 lbs., and another halibut which they said was probably about 80 lbs. but they let it go cause they already had so much. Well after that, there was a bit of an issue because some rock at the bottom of the line was stuck on the bottom so they had to deal with that but they did come back with a few more fish. So now... I have some fun pictures for you to see of this stuff!

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Adam with the 100+ lb. halibut. It's almost as big as him! That is one of the 50 lb. halibut at his feet and the orange rockfish.

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The catch...

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Dan cutting up the 100+ lb. halibut. They are almost all meat, so they got ALOT from this guy! They were up til 1am packaging the meat from all the catch and the sausages that they made last night too. They made 50 lbs. of sausage.

SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY - To Mother Nature... thanks for the weather!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


OK so BABY chum would be the word I guess… all the babies were set free! Hey everyone! I know, I know! I’ve been MIA! Well it’s been a long but good and busy week (8 or 9 days actually!) at Takatz to finish up there.

Last Saturday, I was suppose to head out but the water wasn’t very good so I stayed overnight here at the hatchery and then helped out Dan in the morning on his pens while I waited for Adam and Chris to return. Still the water was a bit choppy, but if you kicked it into high speed, you could cruise right over the chop and it was a little fun actually! :-D he he he Since Chris was heading back to Sitka on that Wednesday, she and Adam switched days off so Chris and I returned back. Found some funny things upon my return…

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A giant brown king crab shell! Someone brought them this crab.

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This giant pallet chair that Adam and Chris made... who knows why but it was kinda funny...

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This is the outdoor shower I talked about last time...

Anyhow, not too much all that exciting at the beginning really… the day after I got there, we headed back to drop off Chris and pick up Adam. Chris is just going to be working in town for a while… but will be back to help out during spawning season. The fish were eating massive amounts of food! We got up to 205 kilos at one pen, but after that we dropped them down a bit and then went to two feedings a day. We got worried for a few days because there were signs of disease in one of the pens. Adam said that it could spread pretty badly in about 3 days but thankfully it didn’t.

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That's alooooot of food... 180 kg on the left and 195 kg on the right. Like I said, the pen on the right got up to 205 kg.

The weather was pretty BLAH at the beginning of the stay… some days just overcast… some raining a lot! On Wednesday, we were suppose to head back to the hatchery to pick up our food that arrived with the plane but the waves were crazy! We headed out to check em out and that’s when we discovered it wasn’t good, but we played around in them for a little bit. To our little boat, they seemed really big! The trough between waves was really deep. Don’t worry Mom, we didn’t drown or kill ourselves or anything! We ended up going back the next day after the first feeding. Yes I said I was out there 8 or 9 days but I DID get to shower! I took one then.

Finally on Friday, June 1st, it got sunny again! Can you believe its a few days into June already!? That’s crazy! Well, it was a great day for sun! Adam decided that we were going to release 7 pens of fish today (instead of the next day like he originally planned.) Because of the sun being out, the fish were all up enjoying it so it was easier to get samples of them because we released them. SO, after a few months of care for these guys, it only took about 15 pretty anti-climactic minutes to release them. All this entailed was to drop 3 sides of the net but leave the one side attached and let them go out on their own. It actually was sort of cool though to see them all swimming around the whole area of the net pens. You know that “flashbulb” effect I showed you that you can see when they feed… well that’s what the whole area looked like with 20 million fish swimming around!

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These fish were actually the smallest guys we sampled... they were only about 2.1 grams.

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It's sort of hard to see but notice the "flash bulb" effect... goes clear past the pens.

Anyhow, after that, we had to return some stuff back to the hatchery. We ended up meeting the new guy that came in the day that Chris left. The next day was interesting though. We pulled up some nets out of the water from the fish release. Let me tell ya… that’s not an easy job! Pulling up a 40 ft by 40 ft net (who knows how deep it is!) that is soaking wet and has been the house for a few million eating and pooping salmon fools! Hard and smelly work! :-D After that, we loaded 3 of them into the little boat of ours and Adam took them back to the hatchery. When he returned, he was carrying a big cooler. He set it down, opened it up to show a huge freshly caught King Salmon (aka a Chinook), and said “Dinner!” It looked huge to me, but it was “average” apparently… maybe 15-20 pounds. So I watched him cut up that salmon like a pro, then we pulled some more nets, loaded 2, and we both went back.

After UNLOADING the nets at the hatchery via this huge wheel thing, we headed in to take showers and do some random stuff. When I got back to the dock, Adam was scouting for some more Kings. Finally he saw some and cast his line. About a minute later, he caught one and then was like “Got it! Ok come here!” So, under his instruction, I brought it in! Let me tell ya! It’s not like catching little blue gills off your Grandma’s deck! HA HA I’m fighting with a mad 15 pound fish! By the way my arm felt, I would have though it weighed more but it was only like 15 lbs. BUT, I got it and it was kinda cool! Sorry, I don’t have pictures… I didn’t have my camera on me. BOO… it was a few feet long though. We had some of Adam’s salmon for dinner and it was pretty darn good! :-D

The next day, it was sunny again and we released the final 7 pens. It was crazy to see them all go! I think Adam said that these were the biggest fish released from Takatz. They were an average of about 2.3 grams I think it was… maybe a little bit smaller.

SOOOO yesterday was the last day at Takatz… we didn’t have much to do so we slept in a little… took it easy. We had 5 nets to pull up which was a pain but didn’t take as long as we though. It was a blah foggy and misty rain day anyhow, so it was nice to not be outside for a long time. We had to go get the shrimp and crab pots set in the bay too. We got some shrimp and found a MASSIVE guy! Whew he was big… Then we pulled up the crab pot and discovered out FIRST king crab! On the very last day… King crabs are the big crabs you see them catching on Deadliest Catch! Instead of pulling it out of the water, we re-baited and dropped it back in. Then we got back, cleaned up inside and packed up a bunch of stuff. As we were eating lunch, Adam noticed a humpback whale in the bay feeding. Really, it was very cool to watch, but sad at the same time because we knew it was probably feeding on OUR BABY CHUM! Hopefully most of them left the bay the day before but we knew it would happen. So I was really intrigued with this whale… tried to get a lot of pictures and videos of it but I was having a hard time. My camera has a dumb delay so I kept missing a lot of what the whale was doing so the videos show more. However, I can’t post the videos because they are too big and you know we have this whole bandwidth thing. So you’ll have to wait on those, but they are cool because you can hear the whale puffing water out and everything. We loaded stuff in the boat and then (OK don’t freak out MOM!) we got closer to the whale. Really, he was already close to the pens but we just motored over closer to him. If he felt too threatened, he would have taken off, not attacked us! After a bit, we headed back to the hatchery, set the shrimp pot, then unloaded our stuff. I spent the rest of the afternoon (only about an hour and a half) helping Deena with the tiny freshwater babies.

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He was bigger than Adam's hand!

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Please avoid looking at the MAGOO look on my face... but this is the king crab.

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This was his big claw... looks like human molars right!?

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Darn you humpback... eating out babies! But you are sure cool!

Well… Takatz is done… it’s been fun… I do think I’ll miss it! Surprisingly, it felt nice to get away from all the distractions of tv and internet. Coming from ME, that’s kind of a shocker, I know! But now I’m back here… so that means no cell phone reception anymore, so don’t bother calling!

SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY - I’m gonna go with my boss on this one! HA Sorry readers… I just want to thank HIM for making the decision to put me out in Takatz. You all know I was a little worried going into it… but it ended up turning out to be really great. Thanks Scott!