Stan Shows How to Run a Fish Wheel

   08.07.19

We have seen Stan Zuray pulling his huge fish wheel out of the Yukon River single-handedly before, followed by another video of his awesome homemade winch pulling it up the slope to get it far away from the river’s clutches in case of flood. But how does the fish wheel actually work to catch the fish they rely on for their survival? Well, let’s find out.

Stan recently posted a video simply titled “How to Operate a Fishwheel,” which starts with a short intro from Stan and a quick boat ride to the wheel.

He then outlines how the wheel works, what controls its action and speed, and how it catches fish. Then he “turns it off” by hooking a rope on to prevent it from turning, all while talking about fish populations and how, in a period of record-high fish populations, he’s seen locals operate their fish wheel for only 15 minutes before turning it off, having already caught enough fish to keep them busy for two days’ work cleaning and prepping them.

Then he raises the actual wheel out of the water, so it’s not catching all that river current that’s obviously straining its construction — which is pretty much a bunch of wooden logs screwed & lashed together. It’s also good to keep the wheel up in case a big log comes floating down the river; that would really tear up a fish wheel.

The lifting is done with a pair of “chain falls” as my Dad called them; also known as “chain hoists.” These hoists can lift heavy weights without much effort on the part of the user, and they run on nothing but muscle power — no electricity required.

From the wheel, harvested fish is moved to the beach, where it’s stored in cold water. Later on, Stan and his son Joe fillet the fish at the river’s edge before taking the meat up to the actual fish camp; you can see what happens there by clicking here.

Pretty cool way to get groceries, if you ask me.

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