First Check

I anticipated checking traps with Sara to run the boat because low tide was late in the day, but Saturday was so calm I took off after a morning and got to my first traps about an hour before low tide at 1245 noon. The wind was right and I thought I could get the boat shoved off shore enough to check the traps and get back before the boat went dry. Nothing in my first sets. However, I did score a crab pot. The pot was showing on the beach at low tide and there was no buoy – the end of the crabline had a knot in it, so must be the buoys came off. So that was a good stop anyway.

My next traps were a ways away down Stephens Passage. As I cruised down the strait, I noticed sea birds. Everywhere. The water was almost flat, and everywhere I looked there were birds on the water. Marbled murrelets, murres, gulls, etc. The birds were all sitting on the water, and not diving on feed, but there must have been some kind of feed for that many birds as far as I could see.

There were no marten in the first sets. I had deer bones with me, so I hung some bones near the sets, and added some more bait to the sets.

The next set was also one I’d marked for otter. I saw two otter in the water on my way in to the beach, so I grabbed the shotgun and thought this would be a slam dunk. I got closer and closer, turned off the motor, and thought the next time I saw them come up, I’d be in range. Instead, the next time I saw one it was lumbering up the beach. The second one went up a bit later. At least I got my first marten of the year when I got into my sets. A female, and in a set I’d caught marten last year. It was my first time setting 330’s for otter like this, and it took a while to get what I wanted. There was a tree crossing the creek, and one hole in the downturned branches along one bank of the creek where the otter were running through on the ice. I hurried as daylight was burning, but think I got a good set in place.

On the next sets, and there was a big male marten. I took out the marten, rebaited and reset, then got to work on the otter set. It was at a “toilet”, under the roots of a tree I’d seen when I was setting the traps. I hurriedly tried to get a trap in place and the trap secured, but fumbled around. I finally was as satisfied as I could be with fading light, and headed back. I looked up the hill as this is where I got my deer last week, and I saw yet another deer run up the creek about a hundred yards up the hill.

The next sets I had nothing, so rebaited and hurried to the next set, which was in the area of the most productive traps last year. I was not disappointed, as I had a marten in both traps. Again rebait and add attractors and on to the last set. Light was really fading now as it was after 3 and overcast. Nothing in the last sets, so rebait and off to the cabin.

I arrived right at dark to my tie up, and could see well enough with the snow reflecting on the trail to make it into the cabin. I noticed lots of mink tracks on the trail near the cabin. From the depth of the tracks, I guessed it might be a big one.

On Sunday, I needed to check a couple more sets, so needed to wait till low tide at 2 pm. I headed down to the boat at first light and grabbed the four marten. Then found an instruction guide I’d got from, as it had been a year since I’d skinned a marten. I did the first 2 small marten first, just in case I nicked a hole. They went fine. While starting on the first big one, I saw a flea climbing up my hand. I didn’t think much of it till I started seeing more fleas, and so I moved out to the porch to finish. Second big marten was the same way – and not sure if maybe the fleas came from the first one or it had it’s own. Anyway, of course every little itch I had on my body I thought was a flea. When I got home, I put the furs in the freezer to kill the fleas, and will then thaw them out, wash and stretch them. I had one unset conibear in the boat that I brought in to the cabin with the marten. I cut the bottom off the clorox
bottle, cut slits for the springs, put some smoked oysters – some ancient food stuffs left at the cabin – in for bait, and put the trap under the cabin. If the clorox bottles work, that will make getting “boxes” a lot easier and a cheap alternative.

I checked my last sets Sunday afternoon and was hopeful since we’d seen marten tracks there during hunting season. But no luck. I moved one set of traps up a creek a ways to see if that helps. I wanted to find some otter sets, but could find no otter sign. What I did see was some canine tracks of some kind. Maybe a coyote. Maybe a wolf. I guess it could be a dog, but I was pretty far from town. I’ll be on the look out for more tracks next time. I saw similar tracks behind my house earlier in the year, so it’s still a mystery.

I was glad to get these skinned as I caught them, rather that wait till the end of the year. I think it will help me to be for patient and careful as it sure is enjoyable sitting by the woodstove with a few marten to take care of, rather than know I have my season’s catch waiting in the freezer.

Lots of water in my gasoline this trip, as I had to drain the water filter twice today. I’ll need to switch gas stations and run what’s left through a filter before I go out again. There is virtually no one on the water now that deer hunting ended at the end of Dec.

Mark Stopha

Alaska Wild Salmon Company

4455 N. Douglas Hwy

Juneau, AK 99801

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