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February 13, 2013

Trip to Alaska … and salmon

When I think of salmon, a flood of memories of my trip to Alaska are unleashed.

I was in Copper Center, which is four hours East of Anchorage by car, visiting an Aunt and Uncle, who have lived in Alaska since the late 70’s.

They are teachers who moved to Alaska with a primary focus on educating Eskimo and Inuit children who lived in the outer-most villages of the northern wilderness of Alaska. For years they themselves lived in poor conditions in order to bring some kind of education to the children and parents who lived in remote places with no schools or public facilities.

I have often wished my Aunt and Uncle had written a book, as their efforts were tireless, experiences many and vast, and the memories they have are so interesting to hear about.

Eventually they built a comfortable home in Copper Center which became my home base during my visit. I learned a lot about salmon and how they caught it. They have a fish-wheel on the river, which looks roughly like a paddle boat. This sits in the water, fairly close to shore, with a dock for easy accessibility from land. These fish-wheels are used to catch the salmon as they swim up river. There are many fish-wheels on the river, usually co-owned by several families. A day’s catch is anywhere between 50-250 pounds. Most of the days I was there it was close to 200. Alaskans call sockeye salmon “Copper Rive Reds”, the most prevalent. King salmon, also called Coho’s, are not as plentiful. Copper River reds are the most popular salmon with all Alaskans. The first salmon run is in early June lasting about 3 weeks. The 2nd run is in late July. The salmon are always on the side of the river, so there are people who just like to fish from shore. A fishing license is needed.

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