|The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you. Insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers. All are worthy additions to the bucket. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
Despite the desecration of this once pristine area and the near eradication of First Nations people, the larger culture in this island archipelago is still dominated by the legacies of the Haida culture. Their ceremonial and cultural icons are virtually omnipresent. Much of their spiritually meaningful and artistic designs depicting their natural and sacred worlds (which were largely the same) have been saved in many museums. The legacy continues to be shared with the world through the magnificent art of Haida descendents, foremost of whom are Bill Reed (see above), and Robert Davison. (If you are not familiar with their work, I highly recommend that you follow the links to see their art. They are icons to Canada's aboriginal history.)
In addition to these Haida artists, Emily Carr originally from Victoria BC, captured the spirit of the peoples and the Islands with her paintings in the first half of the 20th Century. Although not Haida, her art captures the deep spirit of this place and is seminal to understanding this environment and its people. (Again, if you are not familiar with Emily Carr’s work, do follow this link as her work gives one feel of Haida country.)
The trip began with a 50 mile drive from Bellingham to the South Terminal of the Vancouver International Airport where I was immediately greeted by a new Haida-inspired bear figure.
Hello Bear, we hope you survive
The final legs of the journey began from this Vancouver airport at 7 am. We flew a bit over 500 miles north to the Haida Gwai town of Massett on Graham Island. At Massett’s new airport terminal we were greeted by more Haida art including totem carvings, an Orca, and a hanging, designed by Massett’s favorite son, Robert Davidson.
Haida art work at the Massett airport shop
Although against shop policy, after begging, the person at the counter allowed me one quick iphone photo of some of the ceremonial masks that were for sale. (Obviously quickly composed)
At Massett, we boarded a helicopter for the final leg of the journey to Langara Fishing Lodge on Langara Island, the northernmost of the Haida Gwai. This island lays 540 miles north of Vancouver BC, is 30 miles southwest of Prince of Wales Island (Alaska, and home of fellow bucketeer, Wood Gas), and about 90 miles west of the northern BC mainland. As noted it has been the ancestral home of the Haida people for at least 10,000 years. With the abundance of beauty and a wealth of natural resources, it is easy to see why and how their culture and art flourished.
Arriving at the Fishing lodge, we found our rooms, ate a lunch of Halibut and Chips, found our flotation gear, suited up, and located our boat and our guide. After grabbing provisions for the afternoon, we were fishing, bait in the water by 1:00 pm. We fished until 7:30 pm this first afternoon. My partner and I boated three salmon and a halibut that first afternoon.
Back at the lodge for a shower and dinner, it was a treat on many dimensions. The various lounges of the lodge contain a significant collection of Haida or Haida-inspired art, a couple of pieces of which are shown here:
For the next three mornings, the day began with a 4:30 am wakeup knock on the door (no phones here). There is just enough daylight that we could grab a breakfast sandwich and be safely on the water by 5:00 am. Below are a couple of photos to show what it looked like at that ungodly hour that I only see when fishing. One shot is to the East, and one is to the West.
Ostensibly we come to Langara to catch big wild salmon that fight like hell and maybe win as many battles as they lose. While salmon remain plentiful, the big ones (Chinook, AKA, King, Spring, or Tyees when over 30 lbs.), seemed to be less numerous relative to a just a few years ago, at least that’s the fish story I got from those who have been fishing here for the past 20 or so years. I’m a relative newbie with only 6 years experience up there. This year was the 30th anniversary of the Lodge and they played up the Tyee meme. However, in my three days there, among 78 fishing guests, I recall only one Tyee being caught at 34 lbs. I caught three Chinook this year, the largest of which was just 20 lbs. However, it is interesting to add that had I caught these Chinook in my home state, fishing area 7 of Puget Sound, I would have had to release them because they still had their adipose fins and were therefore wild. Hatchery Chinook salmon have their adipose fin clipped before release. In BC, one is allowed to keep either hatchery or wild salmon.
I filled my salmon possession quota of eight, keeping 3 Chinook, (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), 4 Coho, (AKA Silver,Oncorhynchus kisutch) and a Pink (AKA Humpie or Humpback (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). The Pink is among the less desirable salmon, usually rather small, (2-8 or so lbs) and not as flavorful as the Coho, Sockeye, or Chinook. Pinks were however the dominant fish being caught this week. Our boat probably caught 20 or more, all but two of which were released. On my return home I found an article indicating that there is now such a glut of Pinks that they are dominating and out competing the Sockeye salmon in Alaska and British Columbia. Nonetheless, my keeper Pink was rather tasty as the filling for a delicious salmon taco recipe filled with feta cheese and avocado salsa.
Second day’s catch: Chinook, Coho Salmon and Halibut
Halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis)
Although the area is noted for its salmon fishing, Halibut and other bottom fish are plentiful as well and have a definite place at our table in a variety of dishes. Conveniently, we caught some halibut while trolling deep for salmon. Our boat had downriggers that allowed us to keep our lines deep despite there being huge tidal currents at this particular moon phase.
As plentiful as the bottom fish appear here, their abundance has been compromised leading to increasingly strict limits on both sport and commercial fishers. For example, on a previous trip, two years ago, there was a limit of two halibut in one’s possession, but no size limit. Today, you are still allowed two fish in possession but one must be under 90 cm (~37”) and neither can be over 133 cm (~ 55”). The larger halibut are typically female. A 50 pounder can produce half a million eggs while a 250 pounder can produce up to 4 million eggs. Everyone agrees that it is best that we leave the big mommas to spawn. And besides their meat is tough.
Also plentiful are other bottom fish, most of which are from the Rockfish family Sebastes, with 130 species. As with Halibut, we even caught some Quillback Rockfish while trolling deep for salmon. My favorite Rockfish is the Yelloweye, (Sebastes ruberrimus), also called Red Snapper. For these we had to jig further out from shore in about 275 – 300 feet of water. There is a possession limit of five bottom fish, only three of which can be Yelloweye. For my limit I kept three Yelloweye, two Quillback, and a Black Rockfish, (Sebastes_melanops), all wonderful eating.
Once plentiful at home in the Salish Sea/Puget Sound, Rockfish are now so compromised here that it is illegal to catch and keep them. They remain more abundant and legally available on the outer Washington coast.
Fishing was good although not great and I got my limits of all categories - so no complaints. The other reason for going on this mini adventure was to experience the scenery and the wildlife. Birding is always great here. This time I saw and heard eagles almost continuously, circling in the thermals, perched in a snag, or fishing. Here are some of my favorite Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus ) shots from this trip:
Ancient Murrlett (Synthliboramphus antiques)
Peregrine Falcons of Langara Island belong to a subspecies called Peale’s Peregrines and are the world’s largest falcons. The Island once hosted the world’s most concentrated nesting area and these falcons remain part of an ongoing study of this major population. Even though populations diminished precipitously in 1960 and 70s, due to DDT and other insecticides, the area still is considered a high concentration with 5 to 10 pairs usually sited.
Two types of otters are now found around Langara Island, Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) and River Otters (Lontra Canadensis.) Most of you will note the identify of our fellow bucketeer, Enhydra lutris.
I love this etymological trivia, so how about the derivation of "Otter"?
The word otter derives from the Old English word otor or oter. This, and cognate words in other Indo-European languages, ultimately stem from the Proto-Indo-European language root *wódr̥, which also gave rise to the English word "water".
With the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Co. and others, Sea Otters were hunted to extinction on Langara and Vancouver islands. By the mid 1800s they were gone, the last Sea Otter was seen on Langara island in 1830. I was informed that just this year three otters have been sighted for first time in 184 years around the island. I feel fortunate to have gotten a picture of one of these adorable furry creatures returning to Langara. It is proposed that perhaps they drifted down from a healthier Alaska population, or possibly up from Vancouver Island. From where ever, we are all pleased to see them back on Langara and keeping watch on things from the kelp beds again. Fortunately, the number of sea otters deaths from human conflict is slowly decreasing as a result of their protection under the Endangered Species Act and increased regulation of fishing nets.
Also High on my list of desired sightings are Orca.
Killer whale (Orcinus orca), also referred to as the Orca Whale or and less commonly as the blackfish, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans. .. Some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to prey depletion, habitat loss, pollution (by PCBs), capture for marine mammal parks, and conflicts with fisheries. In late 2005, the "southern resident" population of killer whales that inhabits British Columbia and Washington state waters were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species list.
A pod with a couple of adults and a couple of calves I hope
Sea lions (Steller Lion, Eumetopias. jubatus)
These creatures of course were here first and we are clearly interlopers. However, they are very unpopular with salmon fishers. If a sea lion is around when a fish is hooked (and they usually are), they seem to be able to hear or sense the whine of a reel that just hooked a fish. To them it is a dinner bell and they come immediately to a free meal served on a hook. In favorite fishing areas, they quite literally run the fishers off.
The next critters I saw were Velalla, (AKA sea raft, by-the-wind sailor, purple sail, little sail). This little sailor was first introduced to me by Milly Watt’s bucket from her and Matching Mole’s offshore birding excursion in June. In all my time on the water, a large portion of which has been within the Salish Sea, I had not seen or connected with these interesting creatures. So, there I was off shore a few miles from Haida Gwai a month later and what do I see but little Velalla floating by. Later I found a bunch that drifted/sailed into the shallows of the cove where we stayed. I captured one and did a macro on it as seen below. They are very interesting structures. Thanks to Milly and MM for introducing them to me so that I could actually recognize them when seen in the wild for the first time. The daily Bucket works as it should. – I love it.
Flotsam or Jetsam?
Relatively new to the Langara area is flotsam from the 2012 tsunami in the form of Japanese fishing floats. They were everywhere up here, seen out in open sea, on shore, and in kelp beds. This must be from a particular current having come north, gone through and around Alaska and down British Columbia coastline.
Now for just a little more scenery to finish off the northern tour:
That is an overview observation of my latest backyard trip to Haida Gwaii. I would love to take a vicarious trip with other bucketeers. Show us where you've been.
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