Ice Fishing Lessons

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Alfred cuts a hole

When my neighbors get serious about ice fishing, they do it with a net, not with a line. We have a community service class at my school and they recently set a net at the mouth of the Sucker, right where it flows into the Porcupine. Salmon traveling upriver to their spawning grounds tire and turn in to the smaller side channels like the Sucker for a rest. They find a net instead. The students are catching eight to ten large fish a day, mostly salmon, but some whitefish, too. They give their catch to the elders and needy of the village.

Imagine depending entirely on the land for all your needs, a land given to short summers and severe winters. How does one solve the problems of making tools without tools, or sewing without thread and needle, or making nets without twine? The Athabascans are remarkable problem solvers – they did all this and more because their survival depended on it. I glimpsed a bit of that problem solving acumen as I watched Alfred teach the students how to ice fish with a net.

And how on earth would you figure out how to run a net under the ice for some serious fishing? If you are interested in how Athabascans do it, here is Alfred to teach you. Click on a picture to start a slideshow and read about it.

So what about those other problems that the Athabascans overcame? They made tanning tools and needles out of caribou bone, thread out of sinew, rope out of rawhide, and nets out of willow bark!

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7 thoughts on “Ice Fishing Lessons

  1. Not an easy work, but they catch fishes. This is great. But seems that Alfred too. Good Luck for all of them, Thank you dear Dave, beautiful photographs and writing. You know how much I love this ice land 🙂 Have a nice day and weekend, Love, nia

    • Like in all places, easy for some and hard for others. Some have very nice homes, a few have no running water. None really has to subsist – that is a choice these days.There is a great deal of government assistance, enough to get by on. But day to day living can be very hard. It is not uncommon for some to freeze in winter or drown in summer. And if you get seriously hurt, medical attention is far away.

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