Hooligan Fishing.

Hooligan (Thaleichthys pacificus), otherwise known as “eulachon” or “candlefish”, are a type of anadromous smelt that makes its way into a number of rivers in Alaska during the spring spawning run. They arrive in some river systems in the hundreds of thousands, and are an important forage species for eagles, gulls, bears and other species. The fish is found from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska, and the name “eulachon” is thought to derive from the Chinookan language. “Hooligan” is thought to be a derivative of the Chinookan name.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.56.57 AM.png

Hooligan are of interest to subsistence fishermen, who net them out of rivers in the spring. The fish are eaten dried, smoked, canned or pan-fried. In years past, they earned the name “candlefish”, because when dried, the oil content of the fish was sufficient to allow it to burn like a candle. Hooligan were formerly harvested and rendered for their oil, which can comprise 15% of their body weight during the spawning run.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.57.06 AM.png

Hooligan make their spawning run in May, with the males usually coming in first, followed by female fish a few days later. Males develop two fleshy ridges along their sides, and most hooligan die after spawning. They lay their eggs in sand or gravel, and the eggs hatch in roughly a month. The fry make their way to saltwater immediately, where they live for four to six years. They do not always return to the same stream where they were spawned, but they do return to the general area. They prefer slower rivers without a lot of current velocity, as they are fairly weak swimmers.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.57.53 AM.png

Hooligan average between eight and ten inches in size.Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.58.21 AM.png

Hooligan are typically caught by dipnet, a long-handled net with a bag that has fine mesh in it. The fish school up in deeper pockets, and in these places hundreds of hooligan can be caught. At this writing, a dipnetting permit is not required, and anyone with a valid sport fishing license can catch hooligan. There is no bag limit on hooligan.

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Moving to Alaska – Day 9.

Happy Birthday Dad. We packed it up from Babine Lake and thought that we would really get started on our adventure. Our first stop was a place we saw First Nations using a dipnet to catch fish.

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It was time to get onto the Cassiar highway. This is where we turned north from Kitwanga and headed in towards the Yukon Territory. There are very few towns, no cell phone service, no wifi, and gas stations are only open during the day.

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This is one of the places where we saw black bears close to the road.

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There were lots of time where we didn’t see another person, but lots of beautiful scenery.

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Don’t worry, we were totally safe. Notice the bear spray on the belt loop at all times. We also found tall Fireweed. I don’t remember ever seeing Fireweed, but it is everywhere as you go north.

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There are different accommodation options all along the way. We found “resorts” for $150 a night, but opted for the free Bonus Lake Forest Recreation Site.

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I can’t get over how great these recreation sites can be. We are steps from Bonus Lake (which has many trout eager to take a fly).

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There is a composting toilet, picnic tables, and fire rings. There are only 3 campsites. When we arrived we were alone. It was starting to rain, so we set up our tent quickly. I met a nice dutch guy who stopped with his truck, camper, and three kids just to make coffee. He says that he stays in recreation sites 6 days a week while on vacation. He left after chatting for a while. He was headed to Smithers to stock up on Dutch things. He said that 1/3 of the town is of Dutch heritage so there are shops that sell Dutch candies and things imported from the Netherlands that remind him of his childhood.

The weather got worse and a nice Canadian couple showed up and sat in the pouring rain with us. They had a camper, but had a couple of beers at our table and discussed life. It was interesting to meet all kinds of people on this trip. The man was a hunter. Well he shot things. He told us stories of shooting animals that he never intended to eat that he would get a permit for after killing it and report it even after that. Seemed a bit like a “if it has eyes it dies” kind of hunter. He lived in his camper as he worked construction for things like oil and gas pipelines. He would be away from home for months at a time chasing work. Rough life up here.

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