Drum Roll Pleaseā€¦. FISH!


SourDough News | November 15, 2013


Angela Christensen and Eric Castro
Petersburg Ranger District Biotechnician Eric Castro and volunteer Angela Christensen prepare to work on fish stream habitat on the Tongass National Forest..

Eric works with the fish traps
Eric Castro baits fish traps with minnows.

Angela prepares to release trapped fish
A pair of Dolly Varden char in hand proves the presence of fish in the stream.

Angela hangs flagging
Volunteer Angela Christensen hangs blue and white striped flagging along a freshly designated fish stream at Woodpecker Cove on Mitkof Island.
I am and I have been part of the fishing industry and Petersburg, Alaska, since birth, and have a fondness and a sense of pride for all things commercial fishing.
I care deeply about the creatures we harvest from the waters surrounding our island and a sustainable process is of the upmost importance.  
This past September, I volunteered to work with two U.S. Forest Service fisheries technicians.  Fortunately, the crew lead that day was my friend Eric Castro. The three of us started our day at 7:00 a.m, heading out in a brand new Forest Service rig. We were fully prepared with our rain gear, lunches,  hard hats, compasses, and GPS units.  Our goal for the day: to characterize and class streams and then flag accordingly to set aside riparian areas for a timber harvest sale on the island.
We stopped the vehicle at about a 300-ft elevation and started walking into the damp and verdant Tongass National Forest.  We had six fish traps in hand and headed toward a stream believed to have fish in its waters.   At the stream, we assembled the traps, and used salmon roe as bait.  The eggs are sterilized in a mild Betadine solution to kill any possibly fertile eggs and then placed in hole-punched, 35-mm film canisters to meter out that tasty scent to attract fish.
After placing the traps, we were off to class streams and identify and map any new streams found in this unexplored territory.  The stream classing goes as such:
  • Class 2 is a fish stream—blue/white striped flagging.  
  • Class 3 means no fish, but has the power to directly influence water quality downstream, and likely affecting fish habitat—orange/white striped flagging.
  • Class 4 streams, which can be very small streams that feed into the class 3 streams—green/white striped flagging. There seemed to be quite a few of these to flag.
After a few hours of hiking and flagging, it was time to refuel with some food. We ate a tasty lunch of smoked salmon, fruit and cream-cheesed bagels while sitting on a fallen log next to a very powerful class 3 stream. As we enjoyed our lunch and each other’s company in the solace of the forest, the stream bubbled and whooshed downstream on its path over rocks and woody debris in the stream channel. 
We eventually hiked to 1,200 feet through uncharted territory (no trails) in the rainforest, flagging and following streams that crossed our paths.  I had a lot of trips and spills, slips and slides, and even Eric, with his years of woods walking, was not immune to a few good foot fumbles. Using a compass and a map (the GPS was running low on batteries), we made it back to our tentative fish stream where we left the traps…and, drum roll please…. FISH!  We found fish in two out of six traps—little Dolly Vardens. We released the small fish, dumped the salmon roe bait back into the stream, collected our traps, and returned to our vehicle.
Thank you, Forest Service, for an amazing day in the woods and being an integral part of an important process to discover and preserve fish stream habitat.
By Angela Christensen, Volunteer, Petersburg Ranger District, Tongass National Forest