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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
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Alaska Science Camps, Fairs & Experiments

ANKN is a resource for compiling and exchanging information related to Alaska Native knowledge systems and ways of knowing. We are pleased to create and distribute a variety of publications that assist Native people, government agencies, educators and the general public in gaining access to the knowledge base that Alaska Natives have acquired through cumulative experience over millennia.


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Fishing with LuresFishing
with Lures


February brings longer days. People get restless and so do the fish in many of Alaska's lakes. People chop holes in the ice to spend hours hooking for pike, trout, shea fish, burbot, and others.


Fishing with LuresIn the fall people hook for grayling and shea fish through the shore ice; during the summer we often use artificial lures to catch salmon, pike, shea fish, grayling, and others.

Sometimes we go home with a sack of fish and other times we go home with nothing. This poses scientific questions. Were the fish not hungry? Did we fish in the wrong place? Did we use the wrong lure or bait? Was our technique wrong? Did we fish too deep or too shallow? Or are we just unlucky? Which variable influenced our lack of success? Many people believe fishing success is greatly improved by giving the first fish to one of the village Elders.

The First Test

There are many variables in the fishing experiment, but if we are careful, we can control most of them. For now, lets think about hooking through the ice in February. If we want to test a new fishing lure, we will first have to make two holes close together. Put the new lure on one line and an old favorite on another. If two people fish side-by-side using the same hooking motion and fish at the same depth, the effectiveness of the new lure should be evident.

Try it.

Fishing with Lures 


In doing the above we kept everything the same except the lure. To do a truly fair scientific test, have both fishermen trade lures back and forth through the experiment to rule out "fisherman's luck."

Different Tests

Test whether one location is better than another by having two people fishing with:

  • the same lure at
  • the same time with
  • the same technique in
  • different locations.
Fishing with Lures

The fishermen should swap locations several times during the test to control the variable of luck.

  • Fishing with LuresHow could you test for the time of day?
  • How could you test for the size of the lure?
  • How could you test for color? (Gold, silver, red, orange, yellow)
  • How could you test for depth of the lure?
  • How could you test for technique?


More Questions

Would more valid tests be done by a larger group of people rather than only two individuals?

Do you think that the noise the fishermen make impacts the fishing? My wife thinks the sound of her new ice auger attracts fish. It could be.

How could you test the sound of a person walking on the ice? Driving a snowmachine on the ice?

Can you devise a way to observe the fish's reactions to different lures and the sounds on the ice?

Fishing with LuresTalk with people who are considered "lucky" for fishing. To what do they attribute their success?

Find out what kinds of artificial lures the oldtimers used in your region. Make one and test it against a modern one. Put a treble hook on the traditional lure. Is the combination of modern hook and traditional lure a good one?

What are the fish eating? Check their stomachs. Might live bait be more effective than a lure? What effect does "chumming" have on fishing? (Chumming is putting oatmeal, salmon eggs, or other food in the water. This attracts small fish that attract bigger fish.)

The Test & Results

Test the above variables, and try to determine the most favorable conditions for fishing each type of fish in your region in different seasons.

Keep a calender and a record of fish caught, time of day, lure or bait used, and other variables. How do your conclusions compare with those of the Elders in your village?

Save your conclusions for your children and grandchildren.

Finding and Developing a Science Fair Project

Examples of "Observe and Think" Projects

200+ Ideas for Science Fairs!

Traditional Lighting


Traditional Firemaking


Fishing with Lures

Rabbit Snares

Spearing Fish and the Refraction of Light

Chill of the Campfire

Solution vs Suspension

Seals & Beaver, Floating & Sinking


Selecting a Birch Tree

Spruce & Other Roots

Spruce Gum

Spear Throwing

Berry Pickers

Drum Frames


Book Cover

© 2004 Alaska Native Knowledge Network. All rights reserved.

A partner with the Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0086194. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Camps as an Environment for Science & Culture

Culturally Relevant Science Fairs



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Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
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Last modified April 12, 2011