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...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

News break... is it is Nose?

Well I figured it was time to start this blog back up!

There hasn’t been anything TOO excited going on, but I figured I’d start off with a doozy of a story for you. Yesterday I almost broke my nose! No joke! After work, I remembered I had forgotten to put a small fish in the deep freezer when I was working with some fish heads. This is a big huge walk-in deep freezer, where the temperature is about -10 degrees. I walked in and tripped on something, probably a chunk of ice frozen to the floor, and fell. NOSE FIRST. I hit the underside of my nose on the bottom shelf and also bruised up my right knee. Well, it really didn’t hurt that bad, but my first thought was “OH GOD, did I just break my nose!?” My nose didn’t hurt like I did, but my second thought dripped onto my hand… blood! If I had hit the bridge of my nose, I’m pretty sure I’d be typing this with a goofy nose cast on! My eyes were watering also but I noted that my fish that I brought it had made it to the shelf I had intended. In the process of falling, the bag with the fish flew onto its shelf! So I get myself up and get out of the freezer, thankfully remembering to shut the door and get the dog to follow me outside. Outside the freezer, my nose was definitely dripping a good amount of blood onto my hand. So when I made it out of the shop and to the bunkhouse where Adam and 3 others were standing, I probably looked like a mess! I had Adam get me a few paper towels and we went home. It stopped bleeding pretty quickly though so I was just left with a red nose. It didn’t really swell up much, if any, and didn’t really hurt much either. I started to get a bit of a headache but I took something right away. Anyhow, I’m fine. My nose is a little sore, the day after. I’m pretty sure I just have a cut on the inside of my nose and I do have one on the outside a little, which definitely stings, but there is no visible bruising.

Well on to life… The crew got done with chum spawning the day before I got here. I was a little sad but it’s alright. Hey Uncle Eddie, guess I probably could have picked raspberries after all. OOPS! Ha ha Even though chum spawning was over, for a few days, we loaded as many chum as we could into fish totes and took them to a tender to be processed. We couldn’t shock the fish much due to bruising issues they get if shocked so it’s pretty wild… fish flying, water splashing. We definitely got rid of a lot of fish this way though. Apparently the processer was selling the fillets… some of those fish looked ok but a lot of them were pretty beat looking. I’m not sure WHERE they were selling those fillets to so if you go into a store, pick out a piece of salmon that has a good dark reddish color! These fillets surely would not!

We started King spawning on Monday. It was fairly slow because 1) we are still getting tons of chum and pink salmon up into the raceways and 2) a lot of the kings aren’t quite ready to spawn yet. Even though they are coming up, a lot of the females are still pretty green, meaning their eggs aren’t loose. Since we don’t want to get rid of these green fish and risk running out of broodstock, we had to put all the kings into a tote of a clove oil solution to knock them out. Basically what we do when we sort the Coho before their spawning. This allows us to check to see if the females have loose eggs, and if not, then we tossed them into a different raceway to keep them for later. We are going to spawn again on Thursday, so hopefully most of them will be ready to go and it will go faster.

Anyhow, since it was pretty slow, I got to hang out in the spawning shed for a while. The past few years I haven’t been in there too much. My first year, I was taking roe in the Roe shed and only saw a little bit of the process. Last year I was helping to rinse eggs but it was pretty fast paced. So I helped out doing a few things this time. I mostly ran eggs to incubation and did rinsing. But I also helped clean the fish. We wash the bellies with an iodine solution before we use them, mostly to disinfect the fish beforehand. We also try to bleed out the females before we take her eggs, otherwise there will be a bunch of blood in the eggs. This is a funny thing to me. This might sound super gross to you guys but it reminds me of a slasher movie when I see this done. We just cut the tails a little more than half way through. This cuts the vein and if you do it right, the blood will actually spray a bit. So after cutting tails, you have quite a bit of blood on your hands. I find it all sickly amusing I guess… is that weird!?

After king spawning on Monday, I had to take all the numbers, which gets very confusing for king spawning. Much more confusing than chum spawning numbers, because you have chum numbers, pinks to tally, king numbers, and even some very early Coho coming up. Plus you have to keep track of tagged kings. It’s a lot. So I took numbers and then had to deal with getting the heads of the tagged fish. We cut the heads off of tagged fish to send into the lab in Juneau to have their tag read. This also is not an easy task when you have a 3 foot long king salmon with a head as big as mine! Thankfully I wasn’t cutting them off, but it’s tough. That 3 foot long salmon is real. We had a few kings up that were just MASSIVE! Adam is guessing the poundage on those big guys to be about 45lbs… some of the biggest pushing 50lbs.

Anyhow, so now we are back full circle to me dealing with putting fish heads in the big freezer, me forgetting about this little tiny king jack I forgot to put in the freezer, and my almost broken nose! Since there aren’t too many kings up yet, we’re pausing the spawning until Thursday. In the meantime, we are splitting the Coho up into more ponds. It’s a pretty blah job but it has got to be done. However, when I got into work today, I realized that I wasn’t in the mood to work with people today. Do you ever have those days where you just want to work alone… don’t feel like talking to anyone at work… just want to be given a job and do it in peace and quiet? Something kicked in me this morning and that’s how I felt. Sometimes it’s fine… I can just go feed some fish by myself and listen to my music. Unfortunately, I had to deal with people today… and some slow people at that! This one lady kept annoying me… then we kept having to explain to people a bunch of times… Just wasn’t feeling it! The afternoon was a bit better though… it was definitely the people too!

Besides work, we’ve had a horseshoe tournament going on. CHUM MADNESS! It technically started while I was on vacation. They were randomly selected teams and I was supposed to be teamed up with the boss, but his son was here and took my place. So last Monday, Jacquie and Melissa were supposed to play (In the semifinals, because they had a bye the first round), but Jacquie had to go to town so I took her place. SOMEHOW, we managed to win and advanced to the finals, which was last night, after I busted up my nose! Thankfully I didn’t do any damage cause I was pretty excited to play. It was also free hot dog night, thanks to Dan, who set up the tournament. It was a fun night, though Melissa and I lost. We kept up with the boys for a while though.

We’ve been hanging out at Ben and Jacquie’s a few nights since I’ve been back. We just got back from there actually, watching the new show on Discovery called “Swords” about Swordfishing way out in the Atlantic. Tucker was in UNRARE form tonight… bad as usual. I think it’s just pent up energy from being in the house while we’re at work but GAH, he makes me crazy sometimes. He’s definitely in his terrible 2s. Multiple times a day I say how I’m going to get him a shock collar. If our internet would ever get back up to speed, I definitely will! He’s getting to be pretty fast and uncatchable. Sometimes he’s good but most of the time, he won’t come when called. It seems that if you call him to come inside, walk in, but leave the door opened, he’ll come on in within about 30 seconds. If he doesn’t, then you know you’re going to have a bad dog on your hands. That’s what he did tonight up at the Gilles’ house. Frustrates me!

Anyhow, Friday is the spawning party! We won’t be done with king spawning yet but it’s ok. Well… I guess that’s about it. No pictures because our internet is really bad lately. I haven’t really taken many anyhow.

SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY – To little Karleigh, happy 3 week old birthday!!