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leechmann

Alaska Trapping- Living

36 posts in this topic

I talked with Fish and asked him if I could start a thread, where we could ask him about his experiences in Alaska. He said fire away. So heres your chance to ask a very good Alaskan trapper, anything you want. Pick his brain, see if you can take something that he uses up there in the snow and cold, and bring if back to your trapline and make it work for you.

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Ok Fish, just for starters, what is the population of Bethel and is it a way more modern city than Nunivak island? Are you finding that there is alot trapping competition in the Bethel area. Do the trappers that you know trap regardless of what the fur prices are? Do most of the trappers rely on trapping for their livlihood, or do they have other forms of income?

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Bethel is a much more modern city that Mekoryuk, which is where i lived on nunivak. there are about 7 thousand people living in bethel but it is a hub city. Meaning it is a city the jet flies into from Anchorage and people fly from here on smaller planes out the the many villages in the surrounding areas. THere is ALOT more trapping competition. On nunivak I was the only one. THere are about 10 guys in Bethel who trap locally for fox. I am having to travel 15 miles to get to good trapping areas that are untapped just for fox.

All the trappers i know trap no matter what. It hurt alot of the Eskimo's when Goldbergs in Seattle quit buying fur this year, that will slow down alot of the old native trappers alot. There is still a very good local market for beaver and otter for sewing hats and mitts.

Very few rely on trapping for livelyhood, its just too darn expensive now with the cost of gas etc... I know a few guys up here who live out in the bush on their own, no town, and use dog teams. They trap for their sole source of income. They don't get it just from the skins, but they do alot of sewing etc.... to make more out of a skin then just the pelt value.

With gas at 5 bucks a gallon, and heating fuel at 4.44 a gallon, if your trapping for a living you are HURTING.

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Fish, If I was walking around in Bethel, what would I see. Is it a town like you would see in Northern MN. What would be different than a town down here. What would catch your eye, where you have to stop and think, now thats really something. I remember your pictures of Nunivak Island, and the heated pipes for plumbing. How do they handle that in Bethel? Does Bethel have any fast food places?

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the pipes that are in town are above ground and insulated heavily as well. ALOT of the homes have what we call haul water and sewer. I have an underground sewer tank that is 1200 gallons, and a 750 gallon water tank. I get water delivered twice a month and get the sewer pumped twice a month as well.

There is a subway, but other than that EVERY eat out place in town carries everything from pizza, chinese, japanese, and american food. it is pretty funny actually.

What stands out, hmmm I have been in and out of the town so much in the last 6 years its hard to say really. I guess i could snap some photos next time I am on a drive.

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One thing i forgot to mention that stands out are the cabs. there are more cabs per capita here than anywhere in the world. 5 dollars to get a ride anywhere in town and 7 to get a ride to or from the airport. and its not just your cab, they will stop and pick up any and everyone on the way to your destination. One night I took a cab home from a poker game, and 45 minutes later i was home. and it is only a 3 mile ride smile.gif we stopped and picked up and dropped off that many people before they made it around to my stop.

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Fish, whats the weather like in Bethel? Is it one of the warmer or colder places in AK. Is the landscape flat or mountains? Do you have lots of lakes and ponds and or creeks and rivers? Where do you do your duck hunting? Are there any gold mines in the Bethel area? I'm on a roll now!

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I guess I would like to ask, what is the job market like? I mean if a guy wanted to sell everything here and just move up there and live could it be done, would there be work? And is there more of a job market for certain skills?

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The weather in bethel is colder than the island, but not as windy, so that is a nice change. I would take 25 below and calm over 0 with 30 mph winds anyday. I would say it is cooler than average in the summer and warmer than average in the winter. Being close to the sea helps alot, rarely do we see low 30's below zero. I have friends in fairbanks and mcgrath and they might stay at 40 below for 2 or 3 weeks.

it is really flat right around bethel, but we go into the mountains for fishing by boat in the summer and snowmobile up to them in the winter. Lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, LOADEd with them, which is why the duck hunting is so incredible out here. It is a large delta. We duck hunt about an hour and a half from bethel by boat, its only about 12 miles as a crow flies but to get there you have to go the LONG way around by boat.

NO gold mines around here, but within 150 miles there are a few.

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Any of the trades you will do very well, carpenter, plumber, boilerman, electriction etc... All those areas are in HIGH demand for someone who will actually show up and be willing to work. There is a bigtime lack of work ethic in the region.

Even a general handyman i know does very well for himself, fixing heaters, pipes, this and that.

Wht type of skills do you have tipup?

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Fish, what type of fox do you have around Bethel? You have reds, but do you see any silvers or cross fox? How about any Artic fox? What type of timber stand do you have? Any Woverines or pine martine in your area?

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Fish,

I am an auto mechanic by trade, but also do alot of carpentry(drywall,carpentry,plumbing,ext) in my spare time. It has just always been a dream of mine to live there. Of course I am sure the wife would put a stop to that real fast.

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auto mechanic would do VERY well. shop rates are 160 an hour, and guys are backed up over a month. there are only two or three guys in town who do that.

Leech as far as marten, there are a few upriver about 40 miles, that is the closest. W don't hvae any timber, just gee poles along the river and willow. To get to the timber you have to go upriver a ways, then you can find spruce, and cottonwoods.

WOlvernes are not around here either, they are quite a ways away up in hte hills. THe fox are all regular reds. I have put up over 400 fox in the last 5 years and not one cross fox. Artic fox are closer to the coast, they come nad go with the pack ice, so none around here. I wish we had some color phases of the fox, but no such luck.

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Tipup if your wife likes to shop or just go to the mall and stuff like that she would hate it here smile.gif its a 400 plane ticket to go to the mall.

One other thing i thought you guys would find interesting. Bethel is not dry (no booze allowed) like the villages. In Bethel we can have alcohol. But you have to order it in from anchorage and pay outragous shipping costs (1.05 a pound plus 35 hazmat fee) or fly it back with you. We are limited in how much we can order as well. 11 liters of hard alcohol a month, 5 cases of beer, and 9 liters of wine.

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Hey Fish, whats the makeup of the general population in Bethel? Is there mostly native people, or are there alot of people from the lower 48 that have moved up there. Would you say that it is a poor community, or are they doing pretty good? Is the school nice? Is there any industry up there?

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Fish, hey man...love this post. I lived in Anchorage for 5 years and miss AK life more than anything so anyone talking about AK gets my attention.

If you ever are at the airport and find yourself standing in line at AK Airlines ask for Dan Weibe...he's a good friend of mine...tell him Ryan Hoffman sent you...he'll give you whatever hookups he can. grin.gif

Here is a question that I ask Dan every time I talk to him...I'd like your take on it......if a single guy were to move into Bethel, what would the lady situation be like for him???? grin.gifgrin.gif

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If your a decent guy, a hard worker, not a know-it-all, it would be a very good place to be a single guy. Alot of jerks around out here. I met my wife in Bethel grin.gif so i would have to say great, i also know lots of single ladies.

Thanks for the info about Dan, I will do that next time I am in town and need to fly a little "extra" weight home.

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Fish, is there any type of commercial fishing in Bethel? How about sport fishing?

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FISH,

Sounds like I need a location change!!! I dont know though if I could talk the wife into it, and with two kids that leads me to another question. How are the schools? And what about getting Beer and or the heavy stuff mailed into a person? Dont get me wrong I am not a man of the bottle but just wondering.

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Ok bethel is a melting pot, there is more ethnic diversity here than anywhere I know of. THe majority of the population is Yupik, white being second.

As far as industry, the hospital is the largest employer followed by the school district.

THere is commercial fishing in the summer for salmon, I do that in the summers, I use to halibut commercial fish when I was on the island, but too far from here to do it now. Sport fishing is INCREDIBLE if you go upriver about 4 hours by boat. Last 4th of july we fished 2 days and boated 102 kings, largest being around 45lbs, average probably high twenties.

The schools are great in Bethel, I am a teacher here at the elementary school. To get beer or booze you have to place orders. You ahve to go to the airport and submit an order to the air freight company. They bring your order to anchorgae on the plane and it gets sent to the "brown Jug liquer store" and they fill the order and box it up and put all the stickers and packing labels all over it that say alcholol, and bring it to the airport. They also keep a copy on file who has ordered what when and the troopers have access to it, it prevents bootlegging, kind of.

The freight is the expensive part. When i place an order I max out on the booze and beer to make it a little less expensive, since there is a minimum charge, and then a hazmat fee of 35 bucks per order. For 10 litres of booze, and 5 cases of beer after shipping its usually about 450 bucks.

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Fish, are there alot of beavers to trap or are they highly sought after? How about mink? Any coyotes up your way?

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Beaver houses EVERYWHERE, but nobody really traps them in the winter, the ice gets too thick. SOme people hit the close ones early. Most people go beaver hunting right after breakup and shoot all they need then.

THere are alot of mink north of here a little bit, but not too many right around bethel. THe yotes are upriver about 30 miles where I am headin tomorrow. THey are new to the area and the feds and fish and game guys are out hunting them alot to try and keep them from moving in.

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Fish, are you putting your fox up. or are you freezing them for later?

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I am putting them all up, with feet in this year for the tourist auction. Hopefully it pays off, it takes me 35-40 minutes to skin one iwth feet in, and only 5 without the feet. Prolly not worth it, but i am catching so few this year I got the time.

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What do you have for big game around Bethel? Any Caribou? You ever worry about the grizzles?

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