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...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Whirlwind couple of months

WHEW What a whirlwind couple of months! I admit that I have been a blog slacker but my mind has been on other things… You all know what the main thing is!

On a beautiful, sunny April 18th day, Adam and I set out to go beachcombing for glass bouy balls. Little did I know I would be coming back to the hatchery with something much greater than a glass ball! We walked the beach for this elusive glass bouy ball, which is really just a glass ball used over in Japan as bouys. They are quite cool looking and hard to find. As I am checking every nook and cranny of the beach driftwood and up into the woods, I’m slowly lagging behind Adam. Finally I catch up to him. Right at that time, he proclaims “Oh I think this might be a piece of a glass ball!” I stand up on a log to wait for him to show me. When he gets to me, he said “Well… I didn’t find a glass ball… but I did find this box” as he pulls out a classic “ONLY ONE THING CAN BE IN THERE” kind of box! I was pretty surprised! I was convinced that I would know exactly when it was coming… I would see Adam acting different or something. But I was surprised… didn’t expect it at all!

After pulling out the box, we all know what happened after that! I couldn’t stop giggling… I just couldn’t believe it. Some people ask me if I cried, but when he asked me to marry him, I didn’t. Not until later… We kept walking down the beach, talking about things. He told me he wanted to call Dad and get his blessing, but our phones just went down the day before, so he had to email him and had just gotten a response back that morning. THAT is when I cried. Even writing this it STILL makes me tear up! I’m not sure why. Maybe because that type of thing is sort of “old school” and I thought it was awesome that he wanted to do that.

SOOO the whirlwind wedding planning begins! Anyone who knows me knows I watch tons of wedding shows. It’s a big joke at the hatchery about how much I watch the wedding dress show “Say Yes To The Dress.” As much as I watch these kinds of shows, you would thing I would have a pretty good idea of what my wedding vision would be like. I thought I had a good idea! Well once I became faced with REALLY planning stuff, I think my vision went away. My “vision” has changed a million times. Try finding the perfect wedding venue in Maine from Alaska! The only way to really do that is online… This is when it becomes complicated because we have very limited internet! Compound that with the fact our cell phones went down for about two months! (Thankfully they are back on and working now.)

So here I am, sitting in Sitka right now writing this. We are leaving tomorrow to head to Maine to plan out our wedding and I STILL don’t really know! I have some places in mind to visit, some photographers to visit, some dresses to try on… I really hope the trip is fun and not stressful, and we figure out everything we need to so I can feel calm again!

Ok, now onto other things… let me back track again… Work has been pretty busy for me also! As I said before, I have been taking care of the little coho for the first time. I have really enjoyed it but it’s new and can feel stressful at times. Making plans about how long fish can stay in certain containers and when they need to move is all new stuff to me. I’ve fed fish before but never had to be the one to figure out where to move fish. It is getting easier though. For a while, even my vacation time was up in the air because I wasn’t sure if my fish needed to be moved during that time. Anyhow, I’m on vacation right now so that’s been worked out obviously! I have lots of Coho planning in my future too because Ben, the former Coho person, has left. We have known for a while that Ben and Jacquie and the kids were ready to move on. They are moving to Idaho. It’s sad to see them go because we have gotten really close to them in the past few years, but everyone has a time limit when living remote. They reached their time limit. We all wish them the best of luck in Idaho and we are really excited to see them in a year at our wedding!

Since Ben and Jacquie are leaving, we decided to move to their house. It is bigger and probably nicer. We are a little sad to leave our perfect hatchery view of the weir and the bears but it will be nice to have a bigger place. We are moving there, then our duplex neighbors are switching sides to our side of the duplex and a few of our seasonal (they are a couple) are moving into Dan and April’s side of the duplex. Since we are on vacation right now, we are holding up the moving process, but we thought it would be too chaotic to try to move the past few days.

Speaking of the past few days… WHEW… are you ready!? It’s been an interesting past few days. First of all, Valerie has been here visiting! My first visitor in 4-1/2 years!!!!!! Can you believe it!? I barely can! I came into Sitka last weekend to greet here when she arrived. I was excited to see her when she got off the plane! Ok honestly, I teared up a little! Who am I!? I’m turning into Grandpa Moser… tearing up at everything! I guess it was just really good to see her. We went out to the hatchery the next day. The weather was alright for her vacation. The first day it was really nice. We went to the warm springs. After that, it was cloudy and sort of rainy. The wildlife didn’t exactly cooperate though. We only saw some whales from a distance. We went to the sea lion rookery (that I showed last blog) but didn’t even see anything! We went back a few days later and there was only one. BOO! We set the longline a few times and didn’t really get anything good! Finally we got a decent sized halibut. We saw bears too everyday but I was hoping some small cubs would come out so she could see how cute they are. She is coming back with about a million pictures and some pretty amazing bear paw slippers, so be sure to ask her about them!

Now, onto some biggggg news. Not as big as the engagement news but still pretty big. A few days ago, we got word of the resignation of NSRAA’s Operations Manager, Lon. He is moving on to work with the Sitka Sound Science Center. The next day, we found out that Scott (our manager) took that Operations Manager job so he will be moving to town. That left the Hatchery Manager job up in the air. Adam thought about it for a day and has decided to take the job. So Adam is the new Hidden Falls Hatchery manager!

Everything has just happened all at once! Ready to recap just this last week!?

Valerie visits, Lon leaves, Scott decides to leave to take the job in town, Adam becomes the manager, we go on vacation, The Gilles leave, we are planning a wedding, and moving houses!

It has been all at once, bang bang bang! Crazy!

So now I come back to me sitting in Sitka… waiting to leave. I’m excited for vacation, but it’s hard to leave my fish in the hands of someone else. With this whole job switch for Adam too, it’s hard but we’ve had this trip planned for a while. We couldn’t have predicted this to happen. Adam officially becomes the Hatchery Manager on July 1st and he won’t even be in Alaska! Scott won’t leave until after spawning so Adam will have a bit of time to learn as much as he can from Scott. It’s weird because even though it’s a huge thing, I don’t really feel like it affects me that much. It’s all on him. But it will be an adjustment for me too, being engaged/married to the boss. It is hard sometimes to separate relationship and work stuff.

Anyhow, I’m sure I will see you all in just a little while. We will be in Maine from June 30 – July 7 and Michigan from later July 7 – July 13. Hopefully I can fit some fun things in there besides wedding, wedding, wedding! Venues, photographers, dresses, dresses, DRESSES! Adam hasn’t been to Michigan in the summer… any fun ideas for us to do!? Maybe spending the night somewhere nice?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Boats, Goats, & Babies

I'd like to introduce you all to our new addition... A BOAT!

P.S. Valerie, that's the Shee Ateeka hotel in the back left.


When I last wrote, I talked about how Adam might get a boat. He went into town and checked it out and liked it! That was about a month ago! So finally, things have calmed down here, and the weather held up enough for us to get into town, get the boat, and return to the hatchery with it. Now we are back! It's an older aluminum hulled boat with a newer motor. The inside is pretty nice and has a nice heater, which makes for a very comfortable ride when it's cold out. We had a really comfortable ride... until halfway through when the water decided to get choppy. But then it got nice again closer to the hatchery. It only took us about 4 hours to get from Sitka to the hatchery, even with the choppy water.

There are ALOT of seiners in Sitka right now. The herring fishery is going to happen soon so everyone is out preparing.

With herring come hundreds of birds... apparently they like to hang out on a larger bird.

On the way, we stopped by the sea lion rookery near the hatchery. Adam has seen it but I haven't... it was AWESOME! It's just a rocky area where tons of sea lions like to hang out. There are probably about 100 sea lions of all sizes hauled up on the rocks, basking in the sun. Adam said there are usually more too. Once we pulled up closer with the boat, they just started getting really mouthy! It was funny. It sounded like a mix between cows and pigs... just going nuts. I took a video but I guess you'll have to wait to see it. The video portion isn't even that great, but the sound is funny. I see plenty of sea lions here at the hatchery, usually terrorizing the returning salmon, but it's pretty cool seeing 100 of them all together.


Aren't the little ones cute!?
They were gettin mouthy!

This cute mother and pup hanging out away from the rest.

A few weeks ago, Adam got his goat back from the tannery. It is small, but definately nice and very soft! Surprisingly soft!! We have it hanging on the wall in the living room now.


Now about the babies... My baby chinook have been out for 5 or 6 weeks now and they are growing. they are now about .72 grams. For a little while, they seemed to be getting sick but hopefully they are getting better now. Now, adding to my plate, are some more fish! Over the weekend, some of our coho began to get really active in their incubators. I figured they were getting close to their ponding date but was surprised to see how active they were getting! I figured they could wait until atleast Wednesday, when I come back to work because my "weekend" days are Monday and Tuesday. But the boss decided they should be ponded now so Ben did that when I was gone to get the boat. So now I have about 2.3 million more fish to take care of! Lemme tell you what... these fish are tiny! They are about .27 grams, which I'm sure doesn't give you much information, but they are only about an inch long. In a few more weeks, I’ll have another 3 million Coho in another raceway! I sure have my work cut out for me but, it is springtime after all!

Now I’m going to pass this on to someone you all haven’t talked to in a while…

Hey, T-Dog here!


Things are pretty fun! I just spent the day yesterday hanging out with my girlfriend while mom and dad were getting our new boat. It’s been nice and sunny here and I got to hang out outside the other day. I like the sun. The snow is still around so of course I’m happy with that… but the sun is slowly melting it… which makes me sad… but then I’m back to being happy again when I see that the melted snow makes mud, and I sure love mud!

Anywoof, let’s get serious now…

Mom doesn’t like to admit it but her feelings are a little hurt that it has been over 4 years and we are just now getting our first visitor! Don’t get me wrong, she is really excited… so am I!! But it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more. But she is getting tired of asking so I just wanted to secretly tell you! Hopefully I don’t get sent to my box for spilling the beans! MMMM Beans…. See ya!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Mother to 1.4

YEAR 5. Can you believe this is the start of my 5th season!? Even though I’m going on my 5th year, things will be different this year. Roles are changing around here. Adam and I will not be going to Takatz this year. Adam will be “assistant managing” here and running the Hidden Falls chum project. As for me, I just became the mother to 1,400,000 beautiful babies! HA Ok maybe they aren’t beautiful, but they are kinda cute! I will be taking care of the babies in freshwater this year. Right now, I am working with the baby Chinook, but in a little bit, the baby coho will be out of incubation and I will be taking care of them too. Melissa and Ben are taking care of the older Chinook and coho, respectively, but once they release their fish in late May-July, I will pass my babies on to them.

I have only had the fish outside for a week and a half. We had to pond them a little early because they were too frisky! They were very active inside the incubators, which causes them to do a few things. They get stuck on the screens we have, which raises the water level in the incubator. They were jumping over the screens that were getting clogged up. Some would land in the front channel, but most would end up on the ground… to die. Also, since they are active and the water level is high, they tend to swim or jump over the side channels on the incubator. You’d probably have to really see a picture of our incubators to understand it totally but there is a channel that runs underneath the plate where the fish are, so the water can come up from the bottom. Well, when the fish go over the channels, they just live down there. However, SOOOO many fish were going over the channels so a few times a day, we had to pull the plugs and let them out of that channel. We were putting those fish into a round pond early. We were getting like 80,000 fish a day! Finally, after about a little less than a week of doing this, we decided they were ready to be ponded, even if it was a little early, meaning they still had their yolk sac to feed on.

Unlike chum ponding, we are only dealing with 2 incubators of fish, instead of 100! So to pond them, we just use a net and scoop the fish out. There are also bio-rings, the substrate that we use so the fish can burrow into it. So these get scooped up also but we pour the net of fish through a mesh basket to catch these bio-rings. Since so many of the fish had jumped out and into the channels, in some boxes, there weren’t very many fish in the incubator boxes. It was surprising. We even found a few boxes that had a bunch of dead fish in the side channels, meaning we must have been pulling out a lot, but not nearly as much as what was actually in there. They must have gotten too crowded and died. After ponding was over, and the fish were in the raceway, it took a while to get all those dead fish (and a bunch of bad eggs and fungus) out. We also transferred those fish we ponded earlier from the round pond into the raceway too so they could all be together.

So now I am feeding my babies 7 times a day, even though they still aren’t eating great. Since we ponded them a bit early, some of them are still using up their yolk sac. We usually try to pond fish at 3-4% yolk sac (meaning that 3-4% of their body weight is their yolk sac.) but we ponded the Chinook around 6%. My fish are still pretty low maintenance right now, so there isn’t that much to do with them. I just feed them every day. I will be sampling them once a week to determine how much they have grown. Even though I have essentially been doing this stuff with the chum and even with these fish before, I have never been the LEADER of the project. I was the one who fed them, but I was never the one to determine how much to feed. I am also learning the computer file we have to keep track of their progress. It is just an excel file but it is pretty intricate with spreadsheets and pivot tables and stuff.

Well, that’s about it for fish stuff… chum are still incubating, but I think we may start ponding them in about a week. Our new seasonals came on Tuesday. Two guys and one girl. The night they came, we got together for a fire. It was really cold too. But it was still fun. As soon as I got out there, Lyndsey, who is another seasonal, but worked half a year last year, said to me “Hey I have a bone to pick with you!” “UH OH!” She told me that the seasonals knew all about us and everything because of my blog! Apparently if you google Hidden Falls, eventually it will lead you to my blog. I did it and it was like 4 or 5 pages in though. So they were looking at all the pictures and everything, and they said it was helpful and the pictures were better than the pictures they got sent with their other information. It was pretty funny. Obviously, I know it’s not a private blog but I just never thought that the seasonals would find it! But I’m ok with that!

Well, in an unrelated matter, we have a bit of excitement! Adam might be buying a boat!! He is currently in town for that reason. He has had his eye on this one boat and decided to go in and check it out. Scott was in town and said he could check it out first to make sure it was decent before Adam came in, because Adam would have had to upgrade the plane to a bigger plane. So Scott checked it out and came back with a good report. Adam went in yesterday and checked it out. He really liked it. They weren’t sure if they could get it in the water for a test drive because it’s been so cold so everything was frozen, but they did and it he still liked it. The “kicker”, which is the extra little motor just in case your big one breaks when you are driving around, wasn’t working because the guy hadn’t run it for a year, so the owner was going to see if he could get it working. But whether it was working or not, Adam said he was going to probably buy it! I keep you posted but I should know within a day or two. It’s pretty exciting!! Especially since we are going to be here this spring, instead of Takatz, it will help A LOT to have a boat of our own, instead of having to fight for the company boat with everyone else.

I don’t really have any pictures to show yet. I have only taken pictures of the dog since I have been back. Well, til next time!

SHOUT OUT OF THE DAY: NINER!! Only 4 more months EXACTLY!! You are going to be the best visitor I've ever had! Oh wait......