Copper River Record March 12, 2020
By Robin Mayo
This time of year, it’s easy to get stuck in the doldrums and imagine that breakup and summer just cannot come soon enough. Instead, why not celebrate the season for the miracle that it is—all the good aspects of winter supplemented by a whole lot more warmth and light. It’s the perfect time to get outdoors, soak in that incredible sunshine bouncing off the snow, and enjoy nature as it wakes up.
WISE would like to invite you to join us for a favorite spring ritual, Family Ice Fishing Day! For 11 years now we have been teaming up with BLM for this event. It is always the first Saturday in April, the same day as the annual Chitina Ice Fishing Derby organized by Uncle Tom’s Tavern in Chitina.
Family Ice Fishing Day 2020 will be Saturday, April 4th, from 10am to 3pm at Silver Lake, Mile 10ish on the McCarthy Road. Everyone is welcome, and we especially invite beginners who would like to try out the sport but may not have all the gear, or could use some tips from experts. We will have holes already drilled in the ice, equipment to loan including rods, scoops, buckets, and bait. Hot drinks and lunch will also be available. There is no charge, but donations are gratefully accepted to help support this event and our other education programs.
Plan to park on the McCarthy Road and walk about a quarter mile down to the lake. There will be signs to follow. Ice fishing involves patiently sitting still and it can be chilly on the ice, so plenty of warm layers are recommended. Other items you may want are ice cleats for your boots, folding chairs or pads to sit on, a reusable mug or water bottle to help us reduce trash, bags to take home your fish, and a sled to shuttle your gear and tired kids. Those 18 and older (and non-residents of Alaska 16 and older) need to have a fishing license. If you to bring your dog, please plan to keep it on a leash.
Silver Lake is known for wonderful rainbow trout fishing. This year we are focusing on how to best enjoy the eating as well as the catching. We will have demonstrations on cleaning and filleting, recipe suggestions, and a chance to try some freshly cooked trout. The BLM crew will bring an under-ice camera to give a peek into the aquatic world.
As always, we will be awarding prizes to kids! As well as recognizing the anglers who catch the biggest fish, awards go to youth who have great attitudes, help out, and inspire us with their enthusiasm.
Your fish can then be entered in the Chitina Ice Fishing Derby, which welcomes fish caught that day from all area lakes. Fish need to be presented for weighing at Uncle Tom’s Tavern in Chitina by 5pm. The top prize is a power auger! They will be providing “grilled protein” for the community dinner that follows, and ask everyone to bring potluck side dishes or desserts.
For more information on WISE/BLM Family Ice Fishing Day, check the website (www.wise-edu.org) and Facebook page, or call the office at 822-3575. If you have questions about the Chitina Ice Fishing Derby, you can call Uncle Tom’s Tavern at 823-4040, or awesome organizer Beth at 823-4040.
Photo Courtesy of WISE: Kenton, Russ, and Joella Scribner caught this big rainbow last year.
Copper River Record April 12, 2018
By Robin Mayo
Like many outdoor pursuits, Ice Fishing can be a little intimidating for a novice. The lingo seems a teensy bit silly, with pop-ups, jigging poles, and shanties. To those who think of fishing as a lazy summer pursuit, the weather can be daunting. And of course, there is the fact that a very thick layer of ice, possibly topped with a blanket of snow, is between you and the fish.
If you are curious about ice fishing but not quite sure how to get started, we hope you will come join us this Saturday for the 8th Annual WISE/BLM Family Ice Fishing Day. There will be lots of holes already drilled, gear and bait ready to go, and fishing enthusiasts to share their knowledge. We will also have a camera and viewers to catch a glimpse of the mysterious world under the ice. The BLM crew is planning a special surprise, the nature of which we won’t disclose here in case it doesn’t work as planned.
The event will be on Saturday, April 7th, from 10am to 3pm at Silver Lake, near mile 11 of the McCarthy Road. As of this writing, DOT was working on grading the road, but expect mud, ice, and possibly falling rocks along the bluff. Parking is along the McCarthy Road, then you will need to be prepared to walk down to the lake. A small sled is useful to help haul your gear and tired kids. There is quite a bit of snow and overflow water on the lake, so waterproof boots and ice cleats are recommended. You will also want to bring chairs, warm clothing, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Although the April feels warm, ice fishing is less active, and that wind can be chilly.
As well having fishing gear to loan and bait, we will have chili, soup, cocoa, and coffee. There will be a fire pit on the ice for roasting hot dogs and s’mores. There is no admission charge, but donations are encouraged to help pay for food, bait, and equipment. Volunteers are also welcome, if you’d like to help out please call the WISE office at (907) 822-3575.
At 3 pm, we will have prizes for youth, including cool schwag donated by local business TuffKids Outdoors, and some shiny new ice fishing combos ready to go. After fishing with us, you can plan to continue the outing in Chitina, where Uncle Tom’s Tavern will have a fishing derby, prizes, and a pig roast in the evening.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game stocked Silver Lake last summer with thousands of 2” to 3” Rainbow Trout, and we’ve been hearing reports of some great fishing this spring. One fish was rumored to be 30 inches and 8 pounds, but perhaps that was just a fish tale. No matter how you measure it, ice fishing is a whole lot of fun, and something like a miracle when a bright shiny fish takes your bait and emerges into the sunlight.
By Robin Mayo
Saturday, April 1st marked the 8th Annual Family Ice Fishing Day sponsored by WISE and BLM. About 135 people of all ages ventured out the McCarthy Road, which provided a diverse Alaskan driving adventure, with falling rocks, ice, slush, mud, and a sneak preview of the spring pothole season. Luckily our lakes are slower to respond to warm spring temperatures. The Ice on Silver Lake was a good solid 40” thick, and volunteers from the Glennallen BLM office drilled holes on Friday evening to be ready for the crowd on Saturday.
Fishing was a little slow compared to the past several years, but there was still plenty of action, and some really beautiful rainbow trout caught. In the past Silver Lake was stocked by Wrangell-St. Elias National Park with trout from Summit Lake, which is across the Chitina River south of Silver Lake. The trout are not native to Summit Lake, they were introduced illegally long ago. More recently, Silver Lake has been stocked with hatchery fish by Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Some fishermen speculate that the hatchery fish are not as robust as the wild-raised ones, accounting for smaller fish and lower survival rates.
The goal of this event is to give families a chance to learn about Ice Fishing even if they don’t have their own gear. WISE and BLM provide fishing poles, jigs, bait, and instruction. Inside a tent, an underwater camera allowed a peek at the world under the ice. Attendees enjoyed cooking hot dogs and s’mores over a fire in a barrel, and slurped down gallons of hot cocoa, coffee, soup, and chili.
The day’s biggest fish was a 22 incher hooked by Hunter Terrel, 2nd went to Taylor Dolge’s 20” Rainbow, and 3rd place went to a 19.5” fish caught by Rafe Caruthers. Close behind were many beautiful fish caught by enthusiastic youth of all ages.
We awarded this year’s Helping Hands award to Aubrey and Emory Hankins, who helped set up, lettered signs, and brightened the day.
Awesome Attitude Awards went to 5 year old Isabella Neahr for her boundless enthusiasm, brothers Gabe, Zane, and Rafe Caruthers who hiked across the lake many times to record their catch, and Sully Holt for his great positive attitude and eagerness to learn. All of the kids showed great sportsmanship, and it was a delight to watch them patiently fish, and excitedly celebrate their catches.
A great crew of adults also worked hard to make the day a success, including Tim Sundlov, Mike Lindsay, Jan Miller, Jesse Hankins and Robben Taylor from the BLM Glennallen Field Office. Laurie Thorpe comes out from Wasilla each year and does everything from arranging the famous plastic flowers to untangling countless yards of fishing line. Heidi Hatcher and Seth Williams helped with rigging poles and fishing tips. And of course this event would not be possible without Janelle Eklund and Paul Boos, who let us descend on their quiet lakeshore for the day.
Hunter Terrel celebrates catching the biggest fish of the day. Laurie Thorpe Photo
Copper River Record April 2014
By Robin Mayo
It is early in the morning on Saturday, April 5th, at Silver Lake. The air is cold and the lake is a smooth, chilly expanse of white. Far out in the center, some anglers who arrived very early this morning are already fishing. The scene is quiet and cold, but soon that will change.
The first “hot spot” appears near the dock at the West end of the lake, where the crew from Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment (WISE) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are setting up for their fifth annual Family Ice Fishing Clinic. A propane stove hisses as it heats an oversized pot of chili, and water for tea, coffee, and cocoa. Dixie cups are filled with bait, and buckets full of short ice fishing poles await eager young anglers. A power auger roars to life, re-opening holes that were drilled the evening before, and a few more for good measure, bringing the total to over 100.
Just as the warmth of the sun begins to be felt through thick winter layers, families start arriving, sledding down the hill from the McCarthy road with camp chairs, coolers, blankets, and bright smiles. They pick up bait, gear, and friendly fishing advice, then head out to find their lucky spot. Before long happy shouts are heard as the first fish are pulled up through the ice, colorful, wriggling rainbow trout.
In a darkened tent, the BLM crew has set up an underwater camera. Apparently the trout are bored and looking for distraction, because soon they are flocking around, bumping their noses against the camera, and nibbling at the bait on lines dropped through a hole drilled next to the camera. Soon a bunch of kids gathered, and tried to catch the hungry fish, but kept losing them as they pulled them up. The tent filled and excitement rose, with fish under the ice jostling for the bait, and the kids in the tent jostling for a turn fishing and a view of the screen. The excitement died down only when the rainbows were so full of shrimp that they could barely move.
Silver Lake was stocked by Alaska Department of Fish and Game with several thousand rainbow trout last summer, so the fishing is lively. A novice fisher dropped a line through the ice for the first time in her life, and pulled up a 25 ½ inch beauty that looked more like a salmon than a trout. Throughout the day, several hundred fish were caught, a significant increase from the total of about twenty last year.
As well as fishing, visitors enjoyed visiting with friends and neighbors while eating a hot lunch provided by WISE, and tried their hand at “firewood bowling” with logs for pins and short rounds for balls. Materials were on hand for the youth to make their own short jigging rods using dowels, screw eyes, and simple tools. BLM Fisheries biologist Tim Sundlov explains: “Ice ﬁshing rods are diﬀerent than ﬁshing rods used during the open water season. A long pole and reel aren’t necessary for ice fishing because there is no casting. The line guides are wide to accommodate water freezing and then ﬁlling up with ice. When a fish is on the line, the angler drops the rod and pulls the line by hand. Moving the stick up and down is referred to as jigging and entices fish to the lure and/or bait.”
At the end of the day awards were given, for the largest and most fish caught, for great attitudes and helping hands, and for the ice bowling high scorers. The largest fish caught by youth were several 17.5 inch Rainbow Trout. But the real catch of the day were the great moments, many caught by photos. Youth bundled in winter clothes enjoying the spring sunshine, and learning a new skill. About a hundred people came to the WISE event, and many more fishers enjoyed the day on Silver Lake and other area waters, then attended the pig roast at Uncle Tom’s Tavern in Chitina. It may be the largest outdoor winter event in the Copper River Basin.
WISE and BLM put on this event as part of their “Take it Outside” youth education initiative. We are grateful for support from National Park Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Chitina Volunteer Ambulance Squad, and many, many volunteers who lend a hand in many ways.
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.