Intent on capturing the spring spawning run and collecting and fertilizing Arctic grayling eggs for our local adaptation experiment, we set out on foot to the remote I-Minus lake camp. Kate Michmerhuizen and I were at this site for almost two weeks, intent on capturing and tagging as many Arctic grayling as possible during the spring spawning run. We also collected fin tissue samples for isotopic and DNA analysis and tried to collect gut content samples from predatory fish, as well. We stopped collecting guts, however, when we realized the fish were “gulpin’ sculpin” that were trapped with them in our fyke net! While Kate and I monitored the I-Minus outlet stream, Cam MacKenzie and Tom Glass were checking on our other two rivers, Oksrukuyik Creek and the Kuparuk River, also looking for signs of spawning Arctic grayling. During our stay at the I-Minus camp, we saw the beginnings of what we term “spawning readiness,” with bumpy protuberances (tubercles) on some fish and even a few with milt and eggs. We also experienced “all the weather.” You name it, we had it! We captured five fish species, almost all the species on the North Slope, including Arctic grayling, lake trout, burbot, white fish and slimy sculpin. See below for images of our work at I-Minus.
Group selfie of the Spring 2016 Fishscape crew. Cam and Tom will fish lower Oksrukuyik Creek, while Kate and I tackle the I-Minus system.
Freeing the IM1 antenna from river ice prior to ice-out on the I-Minus outlet stream.
Down-time in the relative warmth of our tent.
Layers of lake anchor ice successively rising from the bottom to the surface form floating ice sculptures on Lake I-Minus.
Chilly weather freezes our wet nets almost immediately.
Schlepping a seine net across the outlet stream.
Smooth dangling ice baubles juxtaposed against wind derived spikes of hoar frost reflect in side pools along the I-Minus outlet stream.
Kate readies the tagging station used to weigh, measure and tag the fish caught in our weir trap.
Rebar on our weir trap needs adjustment as permafrost thaw depth gradually increases with warming temperatures.
We named our last sik sik neighbor “Boots” after she nibbled Cam’s hikers. This rascal’s named “Crocks.”
Porcupine foot prints near our campsite.
Harnessing solar power allows periodic use and charging of some electronics while in the field.
Goblet likens amid moss fronds invoke fairyland visions.
Tea break while waiting for fish to find our gill net, which is set perfectly in the background.
I-Minus camp before snow.
I-Minus camp after snow.
Arctic grayling pink striped pelvic fins. It’s impossible not to adore this fish.
Hiking out from I-Minus camp, back to home-cooked meals and showers at Toolik Field Station!!