Danger rises on Yukon Men as fish wheels go into the river

Yukon Men shows residents trying to "be careful" doing an already dangerous job with admittedly unpredictable equipment.

On the Discovery Channel's Yukon Men, it is the time of the year for the residents of Tanana to stock up on salmon, and they are getting their fish wheels in the water, ready to scoop. Some, like the Moores, were putting the finishing touches on their wheel this week, while others, like Stan, were just trying to get theirs back into place in the water.

Stan is definitely a do-it-yourself kind of man. Anyone living in those kinds of conditions would have to be highly self-sufficient. And, of course, it is not like anyone can just go out and buy new equipment at the local heavy equipment shop. But, one thing is worrisome about Stan’s way of doing things: He just is not very careful, not with himself or with those working alongside him. This week’s fish wheel saga was a good example.

Sub-Par Equipment, Dangerous Days Ahead

Stan’s son Joey was off doing other things this week, and did not have time to help his dad move the fish wheel into the water. So, Stan recruited local resident Ezra Conrad to help him.

“Hopefully it goes smooth today,” he told Ezra before they got started. But, as Stan admitted in a camera cameo, his recycled parts and pieces aren’t necessarily the safest way to get a gigantic fish wheel into the water.

“Moving a fish wheel is always dangerous, and we’re not using the best of equipment. We’re working around stuff that isn’t OSHA approved or whatever, stuff that can hurt you. I’ve had some real close calls with those things." In fact, as Stan demonstrated for the camera, he lost part of one finger and almost two others along with it. “I mean, you get your finger taken off. I almost lost three fingers, really. These other two fingers, I don’t have too much feeling in, and that one got taken right off, you know?”

Not surprising, given the lack of concern for safety with the equipment they are using. “We’re using wenches that are way below the power necessary,” Stan explains. “So, maxing out, I’ve seen them just snap, some of those hooks can be kinda like rockets. That’s the most dangerous part; that’s the part that’ll kill you.”

So, it wasn’t surprising when a cable snapped, and Ezra was hit in the head.

Fortunately, Ezra was okay—this time. But, Stan’s comment afterward did not really make a lot of sense: “You just gotta be careful you don’t get hurt.”

'Be Careful,' Says Stan

Alright, be careful. The question is, how? When one is working with admittedly sub-par, unpredictable equipment doing work greater than that for which it was intended, how does one “be careful” in that situation, other than not putting himself in it?

Everyone, no doubt, can relate to using equipment, supplies, etc. for things other than for what they were intended; that is part of ingenuity. And, no, those creative uses are not always what one would describe as "OSHA approved." But, there is a difference, it seems, in being creative with what one has to work with and just disregarding safety completely, thus putting one’s self—and others—in the direct line of deadly danger.

Stan and Ezra did eventually get the fish wheel into the water and working. Now, will it score the fish Stan needs to feed his family, as well as 14 dogs, over the winter months that will come again all too quickly?

Stay tuned.

Yukon Men airs on the Discovery Channel on Friday nights at 10/9c.

Image: Discovery Channel

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