More of Tanis’ Trail Cams

I’m going to post another batch of videos from Tanis’ trapping trail cams.  First off,  a short clip of someone stealing the bait out of the trap…  This is set up in the drainage ditch right at the turn off of the main road to Cannon Beach.  Tanis has a mink set there (there are three clips of a mink running around the trap at night and not ever getting caught on my Vimeo page),  but the animals get pretty wise to just about anything one does around here…

Bait Stealer

I have mentioned many times before that you have absolutely no idea just how many wild animals are all around you when in Yakutat.  If you have ever felt like you DON’T have a bear watching you while on the river,  you are wrong…  They are ALWAYS there…  The marten abundance is what really surprised me,  when Tanis started trapping.  You just don’t see them,  but they are everywhere.  Over the past three years,  Tanis has trapped 6 INSIDE our cabin on the Italio!  You never see them,  but they are always there.  If you don’t know what a marten is…  they call them “sable” when you want to make an expensive coat out of them.  Here is what one looks like:


The Pine Marten…  They are more valuable the darker they are,  so this one is just a pretty invaluable rodent…


Tanis doesn’t get a whole lot of critters in his traps,  but he has helped to keep the airport populations under control (and keep them out of the cabin!).  Sometimes,  things don’t quite go as planned though.  In this next clip,  you learn some of the hazards of putting a trail cam on a tree near a salmon stream in Yakutat…  If you like seeing these videos,  you may consider helping Tanis replace my camera.  He wants to have a collection jar on the fly shop counter after this particular night’s damage…

Bear Eats Trail Cam

Same location…  this is the first time we saw the whole beaver family together…  At least two babies,  plus mom and dad hanging out at the same feed pile location on Ophir Creek.  The bear above ate the camera two days after the beaver footage,  but Tanis was able to salvage the data card.

Beaver Family

Since I’m finally posting trapping information and photos,  might as well offend anyone I can…  Here is Tanis with his total “harvest” from last year…


Beavers are the big round disks,  the long dark critters still on their boards are river otters,  marten on the left,  mink stay turned inside out and are top center,  the little ones just below the mink are ermine.


Trapping has a long and rich tradition in North America and especially in Alaska.  Tanis is out learning about history and science and is extremely physically active.  The best part is his motivation to go out trudging through the snow and sleet day in and day out,  when no other kids are outside.  Some may think he’d be better off inside playing violent video games instead of killing poor defenseless animals,  but those people would have a very limited and ignorant worldview.


From a few years ago…  Eden’s first mink from her own trap and a proud brother who helped her along


A freezer full of beaver…  The one with the chunk out of his tail is the one from yesterday’s first video…  Beaver is delicious and Eden insists we have it every year for her special birthday dinner.  Tanis doesn’t just take the hides,  we cherish the beaver hind quarters and backstraps.  No,  I’m not going to eat fermented beaver tail.  EVER!

Tanis’ Trail Cams

I have been sapping my feeble bandwidth the past couple days uploading videos from the trail cam Tanis has been setting the past couple years.  I’ll post a few of the better ones here for you with explanations and descriptions,  or you can go to my Vimeo page and see all of them.

I’ll start with these two…  I have avoided talking about hunting and trapping on the ol’ blog – even though they are vitally important aspects of life in rural Alaska because there are some truly nasty and amazingly ignorant people out there with no lives and nothing better to do that harass people over extreme animal-rights views.  Easier to just avoid the whole thing…  You know what?  %$#@ them.  They have moved me outside the envelop of caring about their feelings.  Hopefully you’ll survive along with me…

I’m not a trapper.  Never have cared for the whole idea,  but Tanis really enjoys it.  He went to help a local trapper when he was 12 years old and has been out all winter every season since.  He mostly traps the ditches and old gravel pits around the airport to help eliminate some of the problem critters that can interfere with the safe operation of the airport.  Animals and airplanes do not mix and if you like the idea of flying a jet anywhere in the country,  be thankful an animal hasn’t been sucked up in an engine on take-off with you aboard.  I remember while working at Sea-tac in a previous life,  a dog escaped a shipping crate and had to be shot out on the runway,  to prevent a horrible accident…  It isn’t just in rural Alaska that critters are a problem…

This first video shows Tanis checking on one of his marten sets.  He uses small Conibear traps in a tube.  The animal climbs through the tube and sets off the trap,  killing the animal immediately.  It had been snowing heavily,  so he clears the snow away.  Then just a few minutes later,  a visitor comes into the camera’s view,  picks up Tanis’ scent and gets the heck out of Dodge…

Coyote Visitor

Now we’re on to beavers…  Beavers are cute and cuddly and all,  but they really do a lot of damage around the airport.  They block drainage ditches and culverts,  flooding the runways and taxiways and roads.  They also block some of the smaller local streams,  preventing salmon from migrating to where they need to spawn.  This short video is the first time Tanis captured a beaver on camera and we were pretty thrilled with it two years ago when he showed us…  This year,  he has some MUCH better ones that I’ll post later…

First Beaver Encounter

That first glimpse was pretty cool when you don’t know any better…  He cut down the tree the camera is strapped to a couple weeks later,  but sadly it wasn’t recorded.

Tanis was asked by the city to remove some problem beavers from Ophir Creek,  where they were damming up an already threatened stream system.  This is the first batch of 7-30 second clips I spliced together.  Enjoy poppa beaver eating and eating and eating…

Beaver Feeding

I just love the sound of him munching and how he closes his eyes as he eats the thin branch like he is eating bacon for the first time…  Ignore the date stamps on most of these…  We had two trail cams and one of them never reset the date like it is supposed to.  Not to worry,  we’ll never have to deal with that camera again…  I’ll post “why” tomorrow.

Dry Bay History Passes

For those of you who don’t know…  I co-own the old Dry Bay Fish Co plant on the Alsek River in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.  I grew up there,  as my family fished the Alsek for kings and sockeye,  until the Italio opened later in the season.  We sold our fish to Dry Bay Fish Co and spent every Sunday washing our week’s worth of laundry at the plant regardless of which river we fished.  When I was 18,  I ran the hydraulic guillotine cutting the heads off ever fish processed that season (in 1986 – nearly 2 million lbs).

Ken Williams was the owner of the plant and built most of the facility from the ground-up.  Over the past week,  we have been watching all m old family super-8mm movies,  with my sisters working the slime-line,  playing volleyball and watching the ol’ DC-3 taxi in to pick up a load of fish.  Fun memories.

Except my sister just sent some sad news.  Ken Williams passed away about two weeks ago.  One of his daughters (who cut her teeth flying fish in Ken’s 206 and DC-3 and now flies for Alaska Airlines) had given me his phone number about two years ago and she urged me to call and tell him little Bobby Miller now owned his old plant.  One of those things I let slip until it was too late.

Rest in peace Ken.  My condolences to your family and friends.  Another reminder not to let things go.  You may never have that chance again.

Here is his obituary from the Seattle Times:

Kenneth Williams

Taking a Drive

Tanis has his driving practical test tomorrow,  so we spent yesterday and today practicing parallel parking and stuff like that.  Yesterday,  it was important for him to practice driving on slick roads,  so we went out to 9 Mile and back…  Concerned that we could get stuck out there in the deep snow,  we brought along some emergency supplies,  like waders and fly rods…


We walked the loop above the bridge and fished our way down from the Moose Meadows back to the crossing.  Heading upstream,  I spotted one fish at the crossing,  but didn’t fish him then.  Better to work that area on our way back down after spooking him back under a log as we crossed anyway.

Conditions were perfect!  Water felt warm – probably upper 30’s and flows were good in the low 400’s.  Didn’t see another fish anywhere!  That one was long gone by the time we waddled back down to the crossing.  We gave up,  walked back out on the trail and went back to driving practice.


I think conditions are good for some fish to trickle in again,  but they just haven’t had time to do so yet.  If this warm streak continues,  we’ll see a few fish back in the river again.  It is kind of barren right now though.  Not much to report,  other than my toes didn’t get cold!


Half the road was completely bare


Half the road was polished ice


Tanis,  with his big catch of the day – a rock.

Yes, we are still alive…

I know…  It has been a month and a half since I last posted anything and…  IT FELT GREAT!  :-)  We have been hectic and busy around here,  so posts just fell through the cracks until I no longer noticed I wasn’t posting.  Be prepared for the flood gates opening though,  now that I remembered how to sign into my site.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving,  blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.  We are doing very well up here – healthy and happy in our weird Yakutat lifestyle.

More to come!


No Break this Weekend

We have been having back to back storms.  River is blown out at 991 CFS and we still have an unusually large number of fishermen here for this time of year.  LOTS of fish in the river and the water temp is balmy at 39 degrees.  But you can’t wade the river.  Still a handful of silvers coming into Tawah and I know two of the guys are there today seeing what they can find.  They are spawning throughout the airport drainage ditches.

Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving.  We had our turkey last night because “someone” forgot to take it out of the freezer when they were supposed to…  OOPS!


Trying to thaw the turkey in front of a space heater,  to no avail


All the snow is gone.  They worked pretty hard to create our tiny little snowpile,  then hauled it away a week later.

Warmer Water = Hotter Fishing

As we suspected…  the fish are still there in really good numbers.  They just went tom sleep in the cold water.  Yesterday we had heavy winds and rain with temps in the 40’s.  That brought the water temp back up above 35 degrees and the bite turned on in a pretty big way!

The flows spiked to up above 700 CFS,  but are back down near 400 again today.  Colder today,  so the bite wasn’t quite as good as during the storm,  but still good.  The water gets up to 38 degrees during the day,  then drops back a degree at night.  Still cool,  but fishable.

I had hoped to take Teen fishing today,  but a couple weeks ago,  I sold her waders…  again…  Second time we have had a woman about her size come in needing waders and not having the right size in stock – other than Teen’s…  OOPS!  It would have been the perfect day for her to come out and experience steelheading on the Situk,  with calm winds and partly sunny skies.