Fish of the subfamily Coregoninae (family Salmonidae) are commonly known as whitefish. The center of whitefish diversity is in the North. While California has only a single species of native coregonid, the Kobuk River is home to at least six species (Morow 1980). The largest member of the family, the sheefish (Stenodus leucichithys), is found in three river systems in Alaska, the Yukon, the Kuskokwim and the Kobuk-Selawik. The range of the species is circumpolar, yet in Alaska it is not found north of the Kobuk River (Morrow 1980).
A Fish Called Sii:
Recipes and Ruminations for the Tarpon of Tundra
The upper Kobuk River is gin clear as it tumbles out of the Brooks Range, so transparent as to be dimensionless. Not only is it clear and cold but it is also home to the sheefish (Stenodus leucichthys), the tarpon of the tundra, the prize of the Arctic. Sheefish is famed for its aerial displays when hooked and rumored to be easy to catch and sweet of flesh when cooked. We were all eager to find out.
Daylight at Midnight.
Lurking shadows beneath. Sleep.
Haunted by Sheefish.
Our entire surface processes class was intrigued at the prospect of tying into large Sheefish during our outing to the Kobuk River that summer. Class discussions and passing conversations revolved around Sheefish. Would we be on the Kobuk too early or too late to catch Shee? How elusive were they? What role do these magnificent fish play in the ecology of the Kobuk River and the everyday lives of the native Inupiak people?