Sluicing for Fish

Early day placer mining had a profound effect on the salmon populations of the Chatanika River drainage. Many of the richest creeks were spawning grounds prior to the 1902 gold discovery by Felix Pedro. Six years after the beginning of placer mining on Cleary Creek, salmon were still trying to make it upstream to their traditional spawning grounds:

Fairbanks Sunday Times- July 31, 1910


Weather it would be profitable to install a fish wheel as an adjunct to his mining plant is a question which is agitating John Webster of 18 below (discovery) on Cleary creek over Sunday and if he puts it up to a referendum vote at the mess house he surely will have to import an expert from Chena Town to construct one for him. It may be, however, that he will depend on his sluice boxes to do his fishing for him.

The occurrence which gave rise to his meditation took place yesterday and was nothing less than the catch of two good sized salmon in his sluice boxes. One of them the dump box man caught right in the boxes, and the second one Mr. Webster got in the ditch, where it had been washed into the water thick with sediment and was fast expiring. One of them was a dog salmon, but the other, a fine king, was discussed a little later in the mess house. If they come two at a time in the sluice boxes how many could he catch with a fish wheel is the problem that Mr. Webster is trying to work out.

Note: Thankfully, salmon still spawn in the Chatanika River drainage. The resilience of these amazing fish is remarkable, despite enduring the large-scale habitat destruction that took place during the past century. Today, sluicing for your supper is frowned upon and will result in hefty fines if you are caught doing it. This side catch of a History Nugget has been proudly brought to you by Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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