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James Roberts
James Roberts

James Roberts was interviewed on November 17, 2009 by William Schneider and Sidney Stephens at Charlie and Ruth Campbell’s house in Tanana, Alaska. In this interview, James talks about his observations of environmental change in the Tanana area. Specifically, he mentions the impact of flooding on the village, and how changes have affected the gathering of driftwood for firewood and what it has done to the fish stocks. He also talks about how the weather affects moose hunting, fishing, and training his dogs.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2009-11-09

Project: Stakeholders and Climate Change Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Nov 17, 2009
Narrator(s): James Roberts
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Sidney Stephens
Transcriber: Carol McCue
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Science Foundation
Alternate Transcripts
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Slideshow
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Sections

Changes in Water Level of Lakes

2009 Spring Flood

Changes in Water Level of Lakes and Rivers

Unpredictability of the Seasons

Changes in Water Level

2009 Spring Flood

Geese

Moose Hunting

Unpredictability of the Weather

Regeneration After Fire

Unpredictability of the Weather

Wind

Unpredictability of the Weather

Impact of Changing Wind on Animals

River Types

Whitefish

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Transcript

BILL SCHNEIDER: Here today doing an interview with James Roberts, and Sidney Stephens is here, and we are here at Charlie and Ruth's house, Charlie Campbell's house, and

so thanks for taking the time to do this interview, James. And I want to pick up on some of the things that you talked about last time we got together.

And you were talking about firewood and -- and how some of the changes that are occurring in the environment are impacting your ability to get firewood.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yes. It's -- I do recall the biggest issue that I had with you in our last interview was the hydrology cycle.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: Of we weren't getting as much yield on the firewood because of the climate changes, like it was colder springs and we had no big, major ice rushes

and we didn't get scoured was kind of what I was talking to Bill about, and I was telling him that we couldn't depend on getting enough firewood like we used to,

where it would run for days and days or -- or the water table changed and the water times changed, whereas in the June rush, sometimes it only came in May

or sometimes it didn't come at all, it came in July. And it was one of the big concerns.

And I was telling Bill last winter that we needed a cleanout to get cleaned out, I mean, and I -- I didn't mean get flooded out,

you know, but I meant to get cleaned out. And it really happened. But it just happened so suddenly and so quick,

I saw so many markers that changed our -- our climate changed in this spring from when I interviewed Bill to what I did all spring, the biggest change was I noticed it rained for six or seven days,

and it rained hard. So I'm watching because, you know, we're hunting, and you know, we don't want to be hunting in the rain. And so we wait for this rain to come and stop.

And you know, it stops eventually and it filled up everywhere, everywhere it filled up in this ice, and -- and then we had record high temperatures here in Tanana, this spring. Record high.

I was hunting in the blind, and I took all my clothes off. I mean, it was that hot out. I mean, you're just laying there, it's so hot, even the geese stop flying, you know.

And -- it was quite the spring, I noticed it was getting really cold, cold at night, but the water kept coming up. And usually when you hunt, like you always say, okay,

I'll go home in the morning, at 5:30 in the morning, or 4:30 when it gets cold, but what happened was the water kept rising overnight while we were sleeping, and I never noticed that before.

This is the first time I ever seen water come up overnight. That's how I get home is in the morning. You know. And it was -- it was a pretty exciting hunting year. We definitely had to -- had a lot of challenges.

The water stayed on top of the ice, it was about 2, 2 and a half to 3 feet deep, a whole sheet of water, all the way across the river. That's how much water was on top of the ice.

And that's how much ice there was when it froze last fall, it is about 10 or 12 feet lower now than last fall when it froze. I can mark the spot. I mean, that's this year, though. But last year, that's how high it was when it froze.

Remember I was telling you the cycle changed and we had all this high water in the fall, and you just knew it -- it wasn't right. You know.

But I noticed a lot of changes I -- I could see the positive effects of the flood now, though, where it's really helped me in my hunting --

like this year, I watched -- or I came up and where I hunt, it backed up and it just flooded all this whole area. And man, I just see a big boom in the growth.

I mean, everything just came back hard, you know, with all this new nutrients. The willows -- it's good, you know, it's a good thing, I could notice that this --

this helped there, finally, but I don't know, it's -- it's basically the hydrology cycle is what I was concerned about. But this year it's like a normal --

so I feel a lot better about the change. You know. I feel more safer this year

because it's not as high as it was last year.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: Could I -- can I just be the dummy here and ask, you shared a lot of observations, but I think I don't understand baseline.

Like -- like in your -- in your experience, what's the -- what's the normal hydrological cycle that you would expect to see and then -- because it sounds like you've -- you've listed

JAMES ROBERTS: Well --

SIDNEY STEPHENS: -- variations, but what would it be normally --

JAMES ROBERTS: Well, what I say about the June rise is it breaks up and it goes out, and then in early June, it will come up. But what's been happening is in early July, the water gets really high for the last how many years.

Ask Charlie, he knows this. When you're fishing for king salmon, the water has been abnormally high for a number of years. And what I'm saying was we were missing that June --

where it would come up in early June. That's when I would catch my wood, see. See, that's when I'm watching, there's -- you know, where it would run -- when I was a kid it would run a couple weeks, we'd have all this good wood flow,

but it just start drying off slowly, slowly, slowly, and became less and less and less.

And I was telling Bill, last year I only had one, one and a half, two days of really good wood hunting where I could just nail, you know, maximum yield; whereas in three or four days, you could get enough for how many houses,

but you know, it came down to we were just fighting for crumbs, you know. And the cycle was off. The times were off.

That's what I keep -- you know, I kept talking to Bill about is it's like our seasons shifted, like, two and a half to three weeks longer in a different direction,

like, you know what I mean? Do you understand what I'm trying to say, is like you expected everything to happen this time, but it's happening later.

Like I was fishing on October 20th this year. I mean that's 11 days before Halloween.

It seems like the seasons are getting stretched out in a different direction is what I'm trying to say, you know, like where you could count on it being this and this and this,

you can't count on it anymore as to you've got to seize the moment and, you know. That's -- that's kind of what I was saying, too, also.

BILL SCHNEIDER: So you're saying that they are -- the seasons are -- are extending out, they are changing.

JAMES ROBERTS: Right. Right.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. But are they -- is the --

JAMES ROBERTS: Or it's like winter's longer, fall is longer, like, you know, we're getting cut out on one end, and you know what I mean, but we're going the other direction.

I noticed that on the water cycle, though, because king salmon, when they were running, it seems like it was always high, the water. And there was, you know,

that would have been time to get wood, too, while the water was high.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: So kings run, at the same time the water's high, at the same time you're getting wood, that all happens at the same time?

JAMES ROBERTS: No. What I'm saying is it used to get high before the kings came. The water came high, like when I was a little kid, in early June, the river would just get high.

I mean, but it doesn't do that anymore. It never really duplicated what I saw in the early '70s, and you know, through the '70s it's happening.

And I noticed it throughout the years, you know, because every year I'm getting this wood. Because that's mostly what I was doing. I mean, but I noticed, like, one year where you said, oh, yeah, the water will come back in June.

Well, it never did. And I happened to have a bundle of wood because in May, I took care of it all when it just came in one rush.

So you couldn't count on it coming back is what I'm saying, or, like, yeah.

BILL SCHNEIDER: And could you count on it -- you say you couldn't count on it coming back and you couldn't count on it being extended for the normal length of time?

JAMES ROBERTS: Right. Right. And it came down to you had to get it while you can. You know. Yeah. So. And this year,

I don't know what really happened upriver and I don't know what it will do next year, but it seems like -- like what we discussed, though, it did happen, you know,

and like I told Bill there, it needed to clean out. And it sure did. It happened.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Good scouring.

JAMES ROBERTS: So maybe we'll get some lodge pole pine and Douglas fir from Canada.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. That's something you talked about was the variety of different wood that you used to get.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yes. Yes. And seems like when I was a kid, or used to see more lodge pole pines and Douglas fir,

but that came in the June run, too. That's all the water from Canada coming, you know. See, Canada's a huge country, and there's a lot of water back there,

and it comes, you know. It brings trees from Canada. Different species.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Right. Well, let's -- let's talk about the moose hunting. You were saying that you were impacted by rain

and then cold from moose hunting this fall?

JAMES ROBERTS: No. It's actually helped this year, the flood helped us this year. My moose hunting, it directly impacted it, yeah, to a better country.

Well, what happened was all the ice backed all the way up the Tanana River, ice pushed up Tanana River, it pushed all the way up this slough, and it pushed all this ice and packed it all the way up.

I mean, couple miles up the slough.

BILL SCHNEIDER: It scoured it.

JAMES ROBERTS: Not scoured it but it just pushed it all the way back. But what happened was all the ice fell down, and it killed massive willows along the way,

and this year, right where I stopped was where all this ice smashed it down, you know. And it was a really brushy spot, and all of a sudden I stopped there and here comes a moose,

but the year before I couldn't have shot that moose from that same spot. I know I couldn't have because I used to pull the brush away, you know. And that was a good thing.

But I was telling Bill, like all those lakes were drying up and stuff like this, but they all got recharged. And that's what I was really happy to see, like where I hunt,

it directly affected it, the berries are higher, but places I go in the woods, you know, like you'd see just full of grass and way up, you know.

10, 12 feet up and full of grass and sticks. You see drift, you know, it's pretty wild. I mean --

SIDNEY STEPHENS: So are the lakes holding? I mean, the lakes that got recharged by the flood, are they holding the water that --

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah. Yeah. This one was getting really dry to where I could just walk across in darned near tennis shoes; and this year, you know, I had to wear rubber boots and I still got wet.

So it did recharge that whole system. And the food looks good, and the growth came back really good. I noticed that.

It really helped it.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: So Bill, maybe this was your question, then, too, because when you were talking about when you were hunting you got rain for six or seven days, so you're talk -- is that spring hunting, then?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yes. This is geese hunting.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: Okay. Geese hunting. Okay. That's what confused us.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah, I was confusing it. Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: But yeah, geese hunting was different, too. The whole -- like it would get -- and then when it flooded, it was super cold.

When all that water came through, it was frozen cold. I mean, the water was coming up and you could see it freezing right on top.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: I mean. But I had -- I had a bad feeling about the flood. I mean, I really did. I did. It just -- yeah. So I --

BILL SCHNEIDER: How has climate change impacted your moose hunting? Maybe not this year, but in previous years?

JAMES ROBERTS: Well, earlier the moose would come in to rut earlier, like when I was younger.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh hum.

JAMES ROBERTS: Like by the 15th. But now I could shoot moose on the -- from the 15th through the 25th, and they won't even be running sometimes.

It was really warm this fall. Yeah.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Why is that?

JAMES ROBERTS: I -- it's the temperature, it's got to be. The temperatures aren't -- aren't the same. I mean, you can't count on it being falltime cold when you want it to be cold.

I mean, you know, I believe that. And then the -- not only the hydrology cycle, but our precipitation has changed.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Let's talk about that. Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah. That has changed, too. Like we didn't have none, then all of a sudden we get record amounts. Last -- that's last fall.

And this year, it starts out like we didn't get none, but we get some here, like, I don't know.

What I was worried about this place becoming blowing in from the Tanana River, do you recall talking about that? Like all the sand is moving this way.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. Uh hum.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah, see, and I was concerned about that. But I'm glad it snowed now to hold that down, so it won't be -- yeah. See, that affects how I -- when you travel, too,

is if you've got sand all over on the river and on the ice, well, the sun is just going to eat that sand right through the ice and, you know, makes it more dangerous.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: So no sand is a good thing.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh-huh.

JAMES ROBERTS: You know, you've just got to pay attention to what it's doing.

BILL SCHNEIDER: This is a pretty windy spot, though, isn't it?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yes, very. Very. We're always pretty much in the top five in the high temperatures in the summer, and we're always close to the top five of the lower temperatures in the winter.

I mean, it definitely affects a continental type of, I believe, you know. That could be.

I don't know.

BILL SCHNEIDER: One of the things I haven't asked people about here very much is fires and impact of fires in recent years.

JAMES ROBERTS: I -- I believe we need more in our area.

BILL SCHNEIDER: More fires?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yes, I'd like to see some.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Hmm.

JAMES ROBERTS: For the ecological succession. You know. The growth of -- I mean, I'm talking about brush, it needs it, a lot of land is choked off.

It just can't grow anymore and all the plants are getting toxic, and it needs, you know, regeneration.

And I'd prefer that they don't put them out and let them go.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Huh.

JAMES ROBERTS: I mean, you know, that's just from a hunting standpoint, you know.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: I mean, where I hunt I'd like to see that happen. Sure, I'll wait a year or two for it to come back.

Yeah, but I haven't noticed there was hardly any this year around here.

BILL SCHNEIDER: How about in years past, like the past 10 years, fires in this area?

JAMES ROBERTS: There's been a lot.

BILL SCHNEIDER: But you'd like to see more in your area where you hunt?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I always felt bad about putting down fire where I hunt directly, you know, with the crew, and you know, you get -- you know, you know what it needs.

I mean, I felt like it should have been let burn because nobody's there and it wasn't destroying anything but high brush, you know,

and that's what I want to see go. Yeah.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. What about trapping? Are you doing any trapping?

JAMES ROBERTS: No. No. No. No, just hunting and fishing and training dogs.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh hum.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah. But you know, that keeps me close to the environment, too.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Probably does.

JAMES ROBERTS: Working with animals is -- you know, you've got to be sensitive to their needs, too, as to what extremes they have to go through, too.

And you know, climate, weather, like last year it was a battle with all that record snow, and you know, this year it -- it changed the way

I -- I take care of dogs and train them, climate. And like having no snow, what I'll do is I'll just let them loose. I can't drive them, you know.

But the precipitation cycle is so undependable here, you just don't know what you're going to get. I mean, I don't know if this is all we're going to have for another

two or three months or not. Don't know what to expect. (Pause in interview.)

BILL SCHNEIDER: The unpredictability of snow we were talking about.

JAMES ROBERTS: Right. Right.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: The unpredictability of snow affects me in the wintertime when I harvest spruce trees, like if it snows, you know,

you got maybe a week to get your logs because the wind is going to come, you know, and it's just going to blow all the snow away, too.

So it's opportunities like that that you can't miss, but, like, I haven't been able to depend on some years even getting to my wood yard

because of a lack of snow. It also effects, you know, how much wood I can harvest and where I can go and

what kind of trails I can have. If I get a lot of snow but not too much snow, it's really good, you can -- you can go,

you can change a lot of areas you go to, you have all new options.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah. I think a big key to it also is, like I said, the wind, it takes it away.

Like -- like even, you know, affects like -- like it will just clean the whole river free of snow, everything,

there will be nothing left but rocks, sand, and glare ice. So...

BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, people used to talk about fall winds that Tanana was known for its fall winds.

JAMES ROBERTS: Uh hum.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Did those come at a particular time, and has that changed or is that about the same?

JAMES ROBERTS: There's -- they've just become so unpredictable. I mean, sometimes you just don't really know where it's going to come from or what direction anymore, whereas --

BILL SCHNEIDER: Was there a traditional direction it used to come?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah. Yeah. It used to come straight down every time. It would blow right down the Yukon. Sometimes it doesn't come from that direction anymore.

I mean, like when I was a kid, like I had to walk home from school, and there was always that wind. Going down was great, but you walked home,

you always had to buck the wind. But sometimes you just doesn't -- it doesn't seem like it's there anymore as -- as a constant.

Because I could hear it, like, even before I -- every morning, you could just hear it, I think, just whew. And I was like, oh, okay. She's going down again, you know.

Good walk to school, but tough walk home. You know. Yeah. But yeah, that's changed, too, the winds.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: What time -- what time of year would that have been the direction? All year or --

JAMES ROBERTS: Pretty much solid all winter.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: All winter?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yes. It was a solid, you know, whatever -- whatever wind they called it. You know, it's one direction every time it blew down,

never really altered from that for a whole winter, like.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: And did that bring -- I mean, did the wind bring storms or did -- was it --

JAMES ROBERTS: Well, it was just --

SIDNEY STEPHENS: -- snow come with it or --

JAMES ROBERTS: No, it was just a constant. I mean, it's just a constant wind. I mean, it would bring snow with it, too, but it was just always that direction.

Like that -- now that you, you know, talk about the wind, but this year, you didn't know what direction it was going to come from.

And you know, it does affect your moose hunting directly in a lot of ways. Yeah.

BILL SCHNEIDER: When did that wind start changing, do you think?

JAMES ROBERTS: I -- it's hard to say. It's just so gradual, all -- all these climate changes are so gradual that it's hard to notice.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: But it seems like when it comes to harvesting animals and stuff, it's changing, you know, like I said before.

Harvesting wood, animals, whatever you're doing, you know, the --

BILL SCHNEIDER: So you're saying that's when you notice it is when you're harvesting animals?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah. Yeah. Like, you know, if the wind's blowing this way, well, you're not going to go upwind or you know, you're going to change where you hunt for that day, or whatever. Yes. Yes, it does.

BILL SCHNEIDER: The reason I -- the reason I was asking you about that was, is that I'm interested in how people -- how people know what they know.

And so mentioning the fact that it was while you were hunting and while you were fishing or while you were getting wood that you noticed these changes, that's -- that's constructive to me.

JAMES ROBERTS: Right. Right. Yes. Yes. I mean, like we just live right out here and like it's just wild. And you've got nothing for entertainment, but your environment is a everyday thing that you have to pay attention to.

Like I have to go out 365 days a year because I own sled dogs. And so I'm very sensitive to the environment and what it's doing.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Right.

JAMES ROBERTS: And I'm concerned about what's going to happen because of the unpredictability of it.

Whereas that's the concern. Yeah.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Sid, anything else?

SIDNEY STEPHENS: Well, I think -- let's turn it off.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Go ahead.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: So -- so the wind coming downriver was a steady force when you were young, and now it's unpredictable. And my question about -- so did major storms,

did major precipitation come with that wind or did the wet -- did snowstorms or did rainstorms come from a different direction?

JAMES ROBERTS: It's -- it's a good question, because I noticed lately that precipitation can come from almost any direction. I mean, you know, the wind, it's -- it has changed.

I -- it's gradual. Like I say, you can't just say, okay, the wind changed this year, but over time, you know it's not -- it changes where I can hunt and how I hunt.

You know, like some years, like you could always predict it coming this direction, but you can't anymore. You know what I mean?

Like some days, you say, well, I'm going to go this side, I'm going this way, or certain areas are -- you know, you've just got to wait for the wind to be right,

and then you can hunt in your spots.

BILL SCHNEIDER: When you say your spots, meaning places you know about and that you like to go hunting?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yes. Yes. Places that basically I exclusively hunt. Yes. Yeah. I mean,

everybody has their spot, and, you know --

BILL SCHNEIDER: So without giving out your trade secrets, describe that place and describe how the wind impacts your hunting there.

JAMES ROBERTS: Usually I could walk in the direction of the wind for maybe four straight miles and the wind would be just right in my face, and everything in front of me I can do.

And everything I can hunt, I could try to actually sneak up on animals, you know, using the wind, but you know, you can't predict it anymore to where it's a constant,

you know. So it does -- yeah. It does that.

And it's really hard to put a pin on its changes, like the directions, like -- like some areas, they could be blowing this way and then you move 5, 6 miles down

and the wind could be coming a little bit different. You know, we're in a kind of funny geographical spot; we've got, you know, two rivers coming this way and then there's a little tiny hill ridge in the middle, so

you don't know where the wind's going to come from sometimes.

But it's very unpredictable to whereas there was a time you could always predict it coming one direction. That's -- yeah. That's how it affects that.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. What are we missing?

SIDNEY STEPHENS: Probably a lot.

JAMES ROBERTS: Well, you interviewed me last --

BILL SCHNEIDER: December.

JAMES ROBERTS: December that was, right? And then we talked about mostly --

BILL SCHNEIDER: Mostly the getting wood in that June rise.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah, the hydraulic.

BILL SCHNEIDER: The hydrology, yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: The Davis cycle. Right. I mean, you know, in a way, it does make sense, and you could see where his theory does work on a river like this.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. Tell -- tell us again about the Davis cycle.

JAMES ROBERTS: Well, he was the young kid that, you know, his folks were rich, and you know, they said, well, son, you can't have all this money when I die unless you do something good in the world.

And so, you know, he wasn't the most ambitious feller, so he classified the river cycles, you know, to whereas, you know, like the Yukon River is just a medium sized river.

You know. It's a mid age, you know, whereas the Tanana River would be a younger river, you know, by a lot.

And with the Davis cycle classified the old rivers, which would be like the Mississippi, and he said the old rivers, you know, have less floods, bigger floodplains, you know, and then it was a cycle.

But the little rivers, like you see like the Tanana River, Koyukuk River, all of them are more volatile, more V shaped.

You know, he classified it all whereas the Yukon was always a medium aged river and it was more scoured out.

And you could see it, you know, like in every day travel, all these creeks and rivers that you run into, but I always thought that was real interesting.

BILL SCHNEIDER: And do you think he was right in terms of what's going on now?

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. He's exactly right. I mean, Tanana River is very volatile. You know, it changes every day up there. I mean, the channel. Yeah.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.

JAMES ROBERTS: But I mean --

BILL SCHNEIDER: I think that's pretty good.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah. (Pause in interview.)

JAMES ROBERTS: Like when the wood came, that you couldn't depend on the second run. So over the years, I've adjusted to just getting it all on that first run, right after the ice came through, the first rise.

And you had to be ready. Whereas you could do it for a long time, and then you can't. Yeah. We've definitely adjusted to living with it.

Another thing, too, I noticed is springtime fishing. I can't seem to get the right day.

I tried for I don't know how many years to get it right, but that cycle is gone, it seems like, fishing cycle, the springtime fishing.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Springtime fishing for salmon?

JAMES ROBERTS: Whitefish.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Whitefish.

JAMES ROBERTS: And lush and pike. There was a night where I caught maybe 500, but that was -- I never done it for the last 12 years, I couldn't quite seem to replicate that night, or that day, or that run.

BILL SCHNEIDER: So what's going on with whitefish?

JAMES ROBERTS: Well, when I was a kid we used to be able to dipnet every spring for a certain amount of time and do quite well, but it seems like now you can't really nail it.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: So is it that the regulations have changed for what the times that you can fish or that it's just harder to predict what will be a good fishing time?

JAMES ROBERTS: It's harder to predict when they are going to be there. They ain't there when they are supposed to be there.

I've been trying and trying for a lot of years, but I can't quite seem to get it, you know. I mean, it's like a prime time.

SIDNEY STEPHENS: Is anybody getting it or is it just the fish that aren't there in the numbers either? I mean, is it --

JAMES ROBERTS: Well, the water was low, the water was super low everywhere for years and years and years. And like what I was telling Bill was when the ice went out, it was low for all those years.

And that directly impacted how I live by the fact that I can't go over there and say, okay, I'm going to go over there and catch 150 tonight, or -- yeah.

I mean, if I dip all night and catch 15 or 20, you know, that's -- that's a lot of energy expended for that much fish,

whereas there was a time in my life where I could go catch 200, whatever, however strong you felt, you know, or --

BILL SCHNEIDER: What about fall, whitefish? Or maybe you don't fish for them in fall.

JAMES ROBERTS: I do. I do. I caught thousands of them this year.

That was a funny cycle, too, I noticed when I was fishing, too. But that was what I was catching mostly at the end was whitefish.

I was catching a lot. And compared to salmon, those really fizzled out.

I'd sure hate to see that run four years from now or maybe four years from now, we'll adjust and say, boom, these guys are coming early, or you know, I don't know. It's unpredictable.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. On the whitefish, the reason I was asking is that people up in the Chalkyitsik area are finding the whitefish are harder to -- harder to get in the falltime because the streams are shallower and they are not -- the whitefish aren't able to move as easily.

JAMES ROBERTS: Well, what I try to do every year is I try to go and bust open all the beaver dams.

Where there was a time that people would go and kill off all the beavers and there wouldn't be a problem, and the fish would go through,

but now they're having a hard time passing because a lot of these beaver dams that I break open, I mean, there will be fish just swimming right -- right through your hands.

I mean, it's unnerving because, you know, there's some monster pike out there. That's always, you know, the -- the alligator of the water here, you know.

But I did see a few whitefish where I was hunting, though, that surprised me that, you know, like you said, that water must have been about this deep.

You know, that humpback, he's pretty big, you know. And he made it.

My buddy goes, hey, there's a fish, you better get him. I said, no, no, let him go, he had no breed. You know.

Just let him go. Don't even bother him. But it was coming up in the night.

But yeah. You can't depend on that -- that either, really.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: Up there, where one time you could catch a lot of fish there.

BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.

JAMES ROBERTS: Yeah.