News & Events
Dec 2, 2015
Guest Blog: Dispatches from the land of plenty
The abundance of the caribou and the egg fish have been a great blessing for the people this year. There is plenty of food from the land for those who have been able to get out, and those they share with.
Once the river ice was safe, the people started to set nets for the egg fish. The egg fish are the female whitefish that are filled with eggs. The eggs are eaten either cooked inside the fish, or raw. Some of the local fisherman say the best is just squeezed out on the ice, with a little salt on top.
It seemed counterintuitive to us to wait for the ice for the main harvest of fish, but of course the locals know what they are doing! With a couple holes in the ice, and a jig to move the net along, the nets are set under the ice and are checked a couple of times a day.
Ray offered to help one of the elders with his nets. They would routinely get 80, 90, 110 fish each time they pulled their nets, which are about 75’ long. The fish are whitefish, though occasionally there are lingcod and inconnu in the nets.
The fish freeze on the ice. They are taken home in the big toboggans pulled behind the Skidoos and shared or stored for the winter.
There are different ways to cook them, but a common way is to bake them whole—not gutted —the eggs are cooked inside the fish. The eggs and fish meat are eaten together, though there is not a lot of meat on the egg fish—maybe 1/3 eggs, 2/3 meat. Another favorite recipe of many people here is for fish patties.
We enjoyed helping a local fisherman, George, with his net. He is very knowledgeable about the land. He is 80 years old and lives in a wall tent by the river. He has lots of stories and enjoys teasing us. He has about 1,000 fish for the winter. He needs the fish for his family, and his dog team of ten dogs. He saves the female egg fish to eat, and the male fish are for his dogs.
Meanwhile on the river, the ferry continues to travel back and forth through a single channel in the ice to keep the highway from Fort McPherson to Inuvik connected.
Tsiigehtchic has been cut off for a couple of weeks now, but the crew is out in all weather building the ice roads. Building the ice roads is very much manual labour with shoveling, chiselling ice, running pumps - basically building a big skating rink. The men are out there working from morning into the night, and crews may soon work 24 hours a day. Yesterday the temperature was -31C. They have pickups they can warm up in from time to time, and they all have to wear floater suits for safety working on the ice.
Yesterday, the Arctic Red river ice bridge opened, so now we can go buy milk! As we settle in for the winter, we are enjoying getting to know the people here and learning the rhythm of life in Tsiigehtchic.
~ Therese, Ray, Matthias, Kathleen, Mae, Theresa Rose and little Daniel
Setting nets for egg fish on the Arctic Red River
Father and son checking their nets
Beside the whitefish from the net
Helping to check George's net
The ice bridge crew on the Arctic Red River ice bridge, with the ferry and excavators in the background, keepign the Mackenzie River crossing open