This is the time of year we jump onto snow machines and travel a good distance…or two….and gather around our favorite ice fishing holes. Spring time ice fishing is one of the first real breaks from the monotony of the endless dark winter. The sun comes out in full force and the temperature rises enough so that at least it doesn’t hurt if you breath too deeply. And the fish are DELICIOUS. Here in Anaktuvuk Pass we fish for several types of fish, of which my favorite are the Lake Trout and Arctic Char. I was never a big fan of any fish till I tasted the fish here, the are delicate and rich and barely need any seasoning at all really when cooking. I immediately got hooked to ice fishing when we moved here in 2009. And when I started gardening I took advantage of what spring fishing can offer my summer arctic garden.
Fish ‘bits’ as I call them make a beautiful garden amendment, and when added to soil carefully can offer a huge boost in nitrogen. Here at Gardens in the Arctic we are always looking for ways to become more self sufficient and reduce the need to purchase items and ship them in every year and our spring time fish fit the bill perfectly.
For years now I have kept the heads and tails and bones from the fish we cook and eat (or the heads and tails from the fish we ‘quaq’, aka eat like frozen sushi) and I stuff them in plastic ziplocs and throw them in the corner of my freezer. One year I even got a few bags from other people who ice fish which was awesome! Come spring time when the soil is thawed I take all the fish bits and chop and grind them up into a lumpy paste and add it 7-10 inches below where I know I will be planting my nitrogen loving plants like tomato, peppers, sunflower and the like. Every time I have used it I have noticed a HUGE difference in the vitality and size and production of the plant. I was kind of hesitant at first because of the risk of predators finding them but have never had any of the plants disturbed at all, even by our neighborhood weasel who has chewed through a wooden box once to get at a small piece of bear fat. In our chilly soils in the extra deep raised beds and buckets and plastic bins that I grow in, the fish paste seems to disintegrate quickly to become plant food.
One of my friends that grows plants further south of here told me about how he makes a fish ‘juice’ that I am going to try this year, and use as a quick acting fertilizer for the rest of the plants. How do you use fish in your garden?