Village members give the gift of blackfish to their elders

Blackfish fishing in Chevak
Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 7:47 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Upriver from Chevak River where freshwater flows, blackfish can be found. Chevak is a village of around 1,000 people who reside near Hooper Bay to the far west of Alaska.

“[Blackfish] are best delivered when they are still moving,” says Chevak resident Earl Atchak.

Every year, they collect blackfish to feed people in the village and to give to the elders near and far. But this time of year is very special. Atchak says it’s been a tradition for centuries, saying, “We don’t sell them, we give them as gifts, like Christmastime.”

He says it’s a tradition that they continue to pass down to their children and grandchildren. They do this each year to help others.

Upriver from Chevak River where freshwater flows you can find blackfish.
Upriver from Chevak River where freshwater flows you can find blackfish.(Earl Atchak)

From September to April, they continue to catch the blackfish. He says this food source is crucial this time of year, especially in 2020. Atchak says they are very blessed this year by the amount of blackfish they have been able to catch. He says there are millions of them.

To catch the fish, they snowmachine to their hole and drop a pot made of chicken wire. Then they let it sit in the water for two to four days.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, blackfish are small, but hardy fish.

Atchak says blackfish taste really good on rice with a little seal oil and soy sauce.

He says this time of year it’s all about giving to others and being with the ones you love. “It’s Christmastime, it’s time to give, not to receive.”

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