Ice Fishing at Little Atlin Lake

YuKonstruct member Ksenia recently participated in the Make It Wild: Ice Fishing event at Little Atlin Lake, put on in partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust. Here’s her report on the experience as a first-timer ice fishing.

It is April 1st and sunny, just above zero. After registering for our Yukon Fishing Licences this morning (required to fish in Yukon), we are walking onto Little Atlin Lake and the snow is crunchy underfoot. There are two red tents and some vehicles in the distance. None of us three friends who drove here today have done this before – ice fishing in the Yukon.

There are about eight of us who arrive on site first thing, around 11 am. More will arrive later. We are warmly welcomed by YuKonstruct volunteer Amy and Environment Yukon’s Conversation Officers Aaron and Matt and Fisheries Biologists Aaron and Robert. Two large red tents are already set up and holes have been drilled both inside and outside of each.
After a quick introduction to each other and ice fishing, the organizers quickly sort out who needs what and we split up towards our fishing holes to try and persuade a Whitefish or two to accompany us home for supper.

Some of us have our own tackle and others need a hand. At Little Atlin Lake, only barbless hooks are permitted – so we make sure to pinch the barbs with pliers really well (read more about Yukon Fishing Regulations). My two friends and I are complete but eager beginners, and we’re in good hands. Everyone gets the advice or help they need and we are set up and fishing in no time at all. Meanwhile, there are two other activities besides ice fishing on the go: tying flies with Aaron and a fun kid’s craft with YuKonstruct.

Within 20 minutes of starting, our tent has caught a Whitefish! Then another and another. It is an exciting experience – you’re jigging your tiny lure to attract the fish and suddenly one will cruise by, looking for a meal. Some will circle your lure, you watching from above. Others will beeline right for the lure. You see straight down to the bottom of the lake, it is better than HD TV!

As the day went on, nine Whitefish were caught by our workshop group. The daily limit on Little Atlin Lake for Whitefish is 5 per person (read more about Yukon Fishing Regulations).  A few pike also circled, but were too wily to be hooked. We also learned facts from each other and the organizers about fishing for Whitefish, and for other fish, but also about preparing this abundant and deliciously sustainable Yukon food source. The Conversation Officers and Fisheries Biologists demonstrated how to fillet fresh Whitefish – ready for the table! We learn that it is important to ensure that your fish is identifiable when you take it home, so that you can show Conservation Officers what you have caught that day. After a few brave beginners tried their own hand at learning this new skill, we began calling it a day.

People packed up and headed back to their cars with smiles. Jean-Sebastien, who had come out with his wife and three children, said “The opportunity offered to be out ice fishing with my family was just great. The day was very nice, the organizers were giving good advice! My youngest son learned how to fish and I caught a beautiful Whitefish!”. Most, if not all, echoed his enthusiasm.
With the right gear and a little know-how, ice fishing is a great way to get out on the land, enjoy time with friends and family, and pick up something tasty for dinner. If this sounds like a good time, don’t hesitate to catch this workshop when it comes around next year –I’ll be seeing you on the lake!

Make it Wild – Bird boxes!

YuKonstruct and Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust‘s November Make it Wild Workshop was about making bird boxes for Yukon’s small cavity nesting birds–swallows, bluebirds and chickadees. The participants learned about local bird populations, tips to avoid squirrels, and how to pick a good spot to mount a bird box. Most of our participants were new to both YuKonstruct and the birding community – thanks for coming out!

This workshop was very popular and was sold out almost immediately. Because there was so much interest, we are providing Marty’s bird box plans here so that you can come into YuKonstruct and make one yourself!

Thanks to our biologist presenters and instructors for this excellent workshop: Katie Aitken and Marty Mossop!

Instructions:

  • Find a hollow log or one that’s rotten in the middle.
  • Cut about a 1 foot section. One end should be angled a bit, so that the roof will shed water.
  • Hollow out the entire log. A hammer and chisel (or even a big screwdriver) works well. An auger drill bit is best if the wood is hard. The diameter of the inside should be at least 10cm (4”) for chickadees, 13cm (5”) for swallows and bluebirds.
  • Drill the entrance hole with a hole saw. It should be about an inch below the top of the log. The diameter of the hole needs to match the size of bird (big enough for the bird to get in/out but not big enough for predators to gain access).  Range is 1-3/8” for chickadees, 1-3/8” to 1-1/2” for swallows, and 1-1/2” to 1-9/16” for bluebirds.
  • Nail/screw on a plywood top and bottom, to cover the open ends of the log. Screws allow the roof to be easily removed for cleaning etc. (although cleaning isn’t necessary).
  • Fill the bottom of the box with an inch or two of woodchips/sawdust.  The birds will bring in any other nest material that they need.  There should be several inches between the entrance hole and the top of the sawdust.
  • If desired, put wire mesh (1/2″ hardware cloth) or metal plating around the entrance hole to stop squirrels from making it bigger
  • Nail/screw a piece of lumber, a bit longer than the log, to the back for attaching to a tree, post, wall, etc.
  • It’s best to mount the box on a metal pole so that predators such as cats/squirrels/chipmunks/mice can’t get to it.  Another option would be the side of a building that has smooth siding that a predator can’t climb.  Avoid larger trees and fence posts as those are easy for predators to climb.
  • If you have outdoor cats, please consider not putting out a box (or a bird feeder).
mountain-chickadee-nestlings-in-box-katie-aitken
Home sweet home: Mountain chickadee nestlings in a bird box!

More resources!

Nest box plans (also have information on avoiding predators, box placement, etc.):

Nest box monitoring/reporting:

Make it Wild: Re-usable Game Bags

YuKonstruct and the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust partnered up to teach a group of hunters about sewing and caring for meat in the field.  Sound like a odd mix? Not when you are making a customized re-usable game bag!

Conservation Officer, Aaron Koss Young, taught tips for being prepared to care for meat in the field. As preparing and preserving high quality meat begins the moment you get your hands on your harvest, the re-usuable game bags are a great tool for hunters. These synthetic/cotton blend bags allow air to reach the meat and help it to cool and form a crust. The material is also a tight enough weave (unlike conventional cheesecloth) to make sure that dirt and insects are kept off the meat in the field.

Aaron is passionate about preventing meat waste. He inspired the group with an epic tale of protecting his meat from high temperatures and swarms of insects by creating smudges, using a glacier as a substitute freezer, and digging trenches at midnight. The take home message: Take only what you need and use all that you take.

Game Bag

In addition to the tips about caring for meat, our hunters learned to use YuKonstruct’s new domestic sewing machines. They mastered the French seam to create a game bag specific for their harvest this year.

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Don’t miss the next installment of the Make it Wild Workshop Series developed in partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust – so far we’ve made bat houses, paddles, pike lures, and game bags. Check our website calendar for what we’ll do next!

 

A Member’s Story: Building Bat Houses

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to go wildlife viewing with a group of biologist from Environment Yukon to go see the Little Brown Bat in its natural environment. It was an awesome experience! So when I learned that I had the opportunity to build a bat house for these little guys, how could I resist? This workshop was family friendly, with some of the participants bringing their children along.

Carrie McClelland a Wildlife Viewing Biologist with Environment Yukon provided participants with some education on the Little Brown Bat, which was very informative and provided an opportunity to appreciate the work we were about to do in the construction of our bat houses. Our bat houses will provide the females with a safe, warm place to raise their pups. Bats typically only have one pup each year, making population growth slow. Because of habitat loss, bats are finding it harder to find places to roost during the day and to raise their young.
To learn more about bats in Yukon please visit this online brochure

Let the construction begin… We started off with several pieces of pre-cut wood, burlap, some screws and a couple hand tools (scissors, staple gun and a drill). Amy our instructor (and Simon) were awesome in helping us with the assembly of the bat houses.
The Yukon now has several more – beautifully constructed houses that will provide a warm safe place for the Little Brown Bat to raise their pups. Thank you to  the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust, Environment Yukon and YuKonstruct for hosting this workshop. I’m already looking forward to the next workshop! 

For more events from the Make It Wild! series, please keep checking out the YuKonstruct event page!

 

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