Alaska life

Fishing on the Koyukuk River

Pulling fish out of the net. Photo courtesy of Vivian Henry
Pulling fish out of the net. Photo courtesy of Vivian Henry

My relatives from Huslia, Vivian Henry and Shandara Swatling, shared their stories of net fishing along the Koyukuk River. They have generously agreed to share their stories and a few pictures on the Athabascan Woman Blog.

Shandara Swatling’s story:
Well my first year of fishing on the Koyukuk River has come to an end. It was a pretty slow season for fish, but I was able to learn how to set the net, check the net, knock out fish, stab pike, make geeahga (SP), cut fish, hang fish, smoke fish, and watch fish dry just enough. Thanks Viv and family for teaching us how to do it.

Vivian Henry and Shandara Swatling on the Koyukuk River. Photo courtesy of Shandara Swatling.
Vivian Henry and Shandara Swatling on the Koyukuk River. Photo courtesy of Shandara Swatling.

I’ve come away with a few funny stories. One day we had to reset the net twice. On the second time, I was helping Viv throw the net in the water as we were backing up. All I could hear was, “Don’t get caught in the net, don’t get caught in the net.” And it all happened really quickly, my silly self got hooked to the net by my life jacket and almost flew in the water. Luckily Viv is a tough lady and pulled really hard on the net to make us stop just enough so I could detangle myself. I sat down behind her after that and watched! Ha ha.

The other funny story was when we went to check that same set net a few days later and it was getting late. The water raised quite a bit and we couldn’t see the net or the poles it was tied to. It took us about half an hour of searching with the paddle before we found it. It was FAR down, enough for the whole paddle to be in the water. Viv couldn’t hook it with the paddle, so I tied one of the large rocks to a long string and then tied the metal spoke thats used when parked. Viv would throw it in and then we both started pulling. OMG we caught the net! We lost the anchor and the land rope for the net, but at least we came away with the net. It was so dark then, so we idled back to town (took a long time). So might sound like bad luck but we had a few good laughs about it 🙂

Area near Huslia. Photo by Vivian Henry
Area near Huslia. Photo by Vivian Henry

Vivian Henry’s story:
We went out on the boat tonight to pull our net. We had a pretty late start. I thank Thomas for driving and Shan and Alissa for sharing another adventure with me. This trip was the first time in my life I ever had to make shift a gadget to fish for my fish net that was so far under the water the paddle barely reached it. By the time we were done, it was so dark we had to drive very slowly and still barely saw the drift wood. I see why Tyler likes to stay home some times. A lot of our trips end up requiring hard labor. LOL! Good night all.

Thank you Shandara and Vivian for sharing your stories of fishing! I admire their willingness to try and doing the hard work. It sounds like it was a great learning experience with lots of funny memories.

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