Decked in waders and sporting seines and dip nets, we take to land via snow machine, headed for the TOAS pool. We first stumbled upon the Toolik outlet aufeis spring (TOAS) pool in 2012, while heading to our lower Kuparuk River sites via snow machine. In winter, it appeared as a mound of overflow and aufeis, which seemed interesting enough to plunk in an iButton temperature logger that summer. We’ve been monitoring the TOAS pool ever since. Last summer, dispite its small size and disconnectedness to other lakes due to extensive river drying, our crew discovered not only Arctic grayling at the TOAS pool, but lake trout, as well! Total surprise! Keen on tagging fish at this site and setting up a temporary fish antenna to see who overwintered here, we set off with helicopter pilot, Keeton Molt, on a fishing quest for grayling and lake trout. Moral quickly fizzled, however, upon arrival at TOAS. Unlike our other spring locations, TOAS remained iced over by a seriously thick layer of ice with no way to seine or even dip net the frozen waters. Although very different from our shallow spring sites that remain open during winter, if lake trout survive here this pool must be deep enough to support overwintering fish. If time permits, we’ll return with an ice auger this spring to take a better look. The Arctic is nothing if not full of surprises.
Today we get to transport helicopter pilot Keeton Molt for a change via snow machine to the TOAS pool in search of Arctic grayling and lake trout.
Decked in waders and armed with dip nets and a seine, we arrive at the TOAS pool, only to find it completely covered in ice and snow.
No water in which to dip.
We know you’re down there! A crack in the ice reveals the thickness of cover on this small pocket of fish-supporting water.
Snow machines and fishing gear on the frozen surface of the TOAS pool.
Checking water depth with my handheld sonar, but no readings could be made through the thick surface ice.
While stopping at the Toolik Outlet antenna to drop off some deep cycle marine batteries, a curious sik sik cautiously gauges our activity.
My evening entertainment included sorting through last year’s leftover food and this year’s newly purchased supplies into two remote field camp’s worth of meals. A thankless job, but someone’s got to do it.