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Alaska adventure • A beaver dam, salmon and an interesting discovery

Published August 31, 2012 3:08 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The second day of our Alaska adventure featured a little bit of everything.

We are staying at the amazing cabin of Chris Batin near Talkeetna before heading up to Fairbanks Sunday. One of my favorite things about attending the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) annual conference is spending time with fellow outdoors writers in their home states.

We were all excited to return the favor by helping Chris with a chore Thursday morning before we hit the river to fish.

A beautiful pond is located along the road to Chris' cabin. A culvert runs under the road to keep the pond from flowing over the top, but a busy beaver had jammed the pipe. We plunged into the spring-fed and cold pond and set about dismantling the beaver's hard work. I have always been amazed at the craftsmanship of beavers. Now I have a true appreciation of their handy work.

We cleared about 10 to 15 percent of the blockage and then noticed that the material ran about 15 feet down the pipe. Chris decided to attack the mass from inside the tube and entered from the downstream side. Meanwhile, Reed Sherman and I had discovered a big log that seemed to be key in holding everything together. We pried on the log for a few minutes and it finally began to budge. We put a little extra umph into the prying and, suddenly, all hell broke loose.

We yelled at Chris to watch out and I crouched down to see what would happen.

He started to move down the culvert, but debris made his exit difficult. Chris slipped, the mass caught him and knocked him off his feet. Mark Taylor was waiting at the end of the pipe and rescued our now soaking wet host from the continued surge. Chris crawled up the bank while Mark fished around for his hat.

We gathered around Chris to see if he was OK. He had a nasty gash that was bleeding somewhat profusely above his left eye and some scratches on his right arm, but appeared to be all right.

We headed back to his house to address the injuries and then walked to Montana Creek. We emerged from the thick forest right on top of about a dozen or so spawning chum salmon. About five casts later I had hooked my first chum salmon. Quite the thrill, but I couldn't help but wonder what the fight would be like if the "zombie salmon" wasn't so close to death. I caught another and hooked about an 18-pound chum I fought for about 10 minutes before the hooked pulled when the fish ran into a strong current and turned sideways.

I had been hoping for a chance at silver salmon, but we failed to find any. The other bummer was a broken 8-weight that didn't even make it to the river.

I wandered back upstream and was not surprised to see my buddy Reed Sherman kneeling in the water and filming spawning chum salmon. Reed was using his iPhone in a protective case and got some incredible footage.

While waiting for him something in the grass caught my attention. I knelt down to pick it up. I've covered a lot of wildlife biology stories in my career and quickly recognized that the item in my hand was a transmitter that had been implanted in a creature by a state biologist.

I dunked it in the water and wiped it off to see: ADF&G, Richard Yanusz, 1800 Glenn Hwy, Suite 2, Palmer, AK 99465. There was also a phone number, which I called. Richard's voicemail kicked on and I left him a detailed message on where I had found the transmitter and some identifying numbers on the device. I asked him to please let me know the history of the transmitter.

Back at the cabin, I showed Chris the transmitter. After some thinking, he thought it had likely been implanted in a king salmon this spring and it ended up on the bank where I found it after the fish had decayed. I'll post any response I get from Alaska Fish and Game.