Setting

Traveled to my brother in laws to help him set marten traps. We spent a day getting ready, which entails fueling his fishing vessel (where we’d live), big aluminum boat with twin outboards (vessel can carry 4 wheelers and go to shore) and 14 foot skiff (for setting traps from the boat in bays with no road access). We traveled in the fishing boat, towing the other two boats behind.

Weather was kind of snotty – rain and wind and in the high 30’s. There was little snow at sea level.

We got to our anchorage about 5 hours out of town. After setting shrimp pots, the next job was to bait the trap “boxes”. These consist of a 16″ long piece of 8′ PVC pipe. The top of the tube has a piece of wood wired to it. The underside of the wood is where we wire a bag of blood-shot deer scraps. The other end of the tube has 4 inch slits cut opposite each other. These hold a 120 conibear trap. We got each trap ready to set by squeezing together the springs and then securing the safety latches, making setting in the field easier.

We put together enough boxes to set for several days. When we got to our anchorage, we set the main anchor on the 46′ fishing vessel, plus 3 extra halibut anchors – just in case. Turns out this was a wise move.

Then, we took the aluminum boat to shore, and offloaded 4-wheelers and trailer. We use the 4 wheelers on logging roads. These enable us to reach the high country. Marten like steep sided, old-growth timber. Even though the area was substantially logged, marten are still around, apparently living in uncut areas and “hunting” in the adjacent cut areas. We did set in areas cut from ocean to ridge top – which were numerous. Many times we’d travel a long way between sets when traveling through these areas

Some of our sets were at the same place as last year, as we’d see our nails on the tree. Each box is set by merely hanging it on a tree by a 16 penny finishing nail. We then leaned a pole up to the bottom of the trap. The marten tries to get to the bait in the top of the tube, and is caught in the trap.

Last year, we set 2 boxes at almost every site. This year, we went with just one, since we rarely caught marten in both boxes at a set. There were numerous humpback whales feeding in the ocean near our trapline, and we could hear them when we shut off the 4 wheelers and were setting along the water, even at high altitude.

The weather was mostly dry and partly cloudy or mostly clear during the day. The first few days were in the 30’s, but then it warmed up and the last few days in the 50’s — at the start of Dec. It felt like summer. Nights were another matter. The winds and rain came almost every night, and we were glad to have the extra anchors out.

Some beavers were flooding the road on our first line. We would pull part of the dam down each day to drain the pond on the road a bit, but the beavers always repaired it each night. We never saw the beavers, and didn’t bother to set for them this trip as the road was still barely passable through their pond.

After setting the first line by road, we then traveled a ways in the boats to another bay, and set a line by small skiff in that bay. We returned to our earlier anchorage due to forecast winds. Seems no bay is “out of the wind” there, but this was the best we were going to find.

We checked the shrimp pots, and had enough for one dinner of shrimp tails, and a second of peeled shrimp in a boxed fettuchini mix. Other meals were moose burger patties and moose and egg breakfasts. The days are short this time of year, with dark by 4 pm. On nights we didn’t need to make up more trap boxes, we read magazines and books, listened to XM radio when reception was good, and watched DVD movies.

We set about 100 traps over the week, and checked some of our initial sets, taking a few marten. We headed back to Craig and I returned to Juneau about 10 days after we started. Safely setting traps is a 2 person job with loading and offloading equipment, etc. My brother in law can check them by himself now if necessary, and will take his nephew if possible, as the pre-teen loves anything to do with hunting, fishing or trapping.

Although this area is a hot spot for deer during Nov and maybe earlier in the fall, we did not see a single deer – and only one or two sets of fresh tracks – for the second straight year during my time there in Dec. I try to make the trip a trapping/hunting trip, but the deer obviously move out of there by this time.

I had a hat made from the 2 marten and 1 mink I trapped near Juneau last year, and it served me well on the 4 wheeler and skiff – you need a good hat in the winter, especially when you are making your own wind chill.

Getting home from one of these trips always seems like jet lag. I slept most of the first day home, probably because it was my first good night of sleep in my own bed in a couple weeks – just like coming home from the slope. Now on to more deer hunting and maybe trapping here until the call comes to resume work up north.

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801
www.GoodSalmon.com