Success Stories: Fish Wheel

Main Content
Release date: 
August 10, 2009
Release Number: 
FNF-09-038

Among the many problems caused when the Yukon River flooded the town of Eagle this spring was the damage done to structures that have been built over the years for subsisting on the land. Most residents of this remote Alaska village depend on what they grow and on what they catch in the river for their food. Cash is in short supply and is used for things they can only purchase, like building supplies or gas for snowmobiles.

Andy Bassich is typical of Eagle residents. His 12-foot fish wheel is a uniquely Alaskan invention for catching fish. It is a floating mill wheel, consisting of two five-foot-wide baskets covered with fish net that rotate in the river's current and scoop up salmon, which they deposit in a holding tank (see Figure 1).

Andy's fish wheel was badly damaged in the flood, and he needed to get the wheel fixed for the summer salmon season. Salmon are the major source of food for Andy's family and his sled dogs. At the height of the salmon runs, it is used to gather fish for the whole village.

Fortunately for Andy, Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers came to Eagle to help people re-build their homes and subsistence equipment. They showed up on July 14, right before the salmon season was about to close for ten days for salmon spawning. With their help, Andy was able to get the wheel repaired in one day. That evening, they put it in the river. By the next morning, they had collected 18 salmon (see Figures 2 and 3).

With the help of volunteers from organizations like the Mennonite Disaster Service, Eagle is recovering from the devastating floods. Not the least important contribution is the repair and rebuilding of people's food gathering capabilities. Hopefully, by the time the harsh Alaskan winter sets in, the citizens of Eagle will be prepared.

Fact Sheet

 

  • When the Yukon River flooded the town of Eagle this spring, many structures for subsisting on the land were damaged.
  • Andy Bassich's 12-foot fish wheel was badly damaged.
  • A fish wheel is a floating mill wheel, consisting of two five-foot-wide baskets covered with fish net that rotate in the river's current and scoop up salmon, which they deposit in a holding tank.
  • Salmon are the major source of food for Andy's family and his sled dogs.
  • Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers, in Eagle to help people re-build, showed up on July 14, right before the salmon season was about to close for ten days for salmon spawning.
  • With the help of the volunteers, Andy got the wheel repaired in one day and collected 18 salmon before the season's end.

 

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
Related Disaster: