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STIHL 090 Chainsaw Helps Ministry of Environment Teach Ice Fishing Techniques

STIHL 090 Chainsaw

We love hearing stories from our customers about how tools and equipment they purchased at Ida Supply help them do their jobs better and make a difference in the world. The story below was submitted by Marge Sidney from the Ministry of Environment, who has been using a STIHL saw purchased at Ida Supply for over 30 years.

My name is Marge Sidney and I work for the Ministry of Environment (MoE) in Kamloops. In 1981 the Fisheries instructor from the Fish, Wildlife & Recreation Program (FWR) at BCIT contacted our office and asked if he could bring his 2nd Year class to an interior lake in March 1982 so that MoE staff could teach the students how to set gill nets under the ice to catch fish. From this simple beginning a long term relationship has been developed and March of 2016 marked at least the 31st time that I have been involved.

I was a grad of the FWR program at BCIT in 1976 and firmly believe in its value so the fit was natural. What started as a simple field trip back in the 1980’s has developed into a very comprehensive winter limnology study (the scientific study of bodies of freshwater, such as lakes and ponds, with reference to their biological, chemical, physical, geological and other attributes) in the 2000’s. Over the years I have taken the class to many lakes in the Southern Interior during the first week of March.

You might ask what this has to do with Ida Supply Ltd. in Kamloops. In the early to mid 1980’s our Fisheries section needed a good, reliable chainsaw to cut holes in the ice of various lakes in our region during the winter to perform work under the ice. We went to Ida Supply Ltd. and told staff there what we needed to do and how thick the ice could potentially be. The saw recommended was a Stihl 090 gear drive with a 30” bar so we purchased one. During the 1980’s it was used quite extensively during the winter for internal Fisheries work as well as BCIT field trips, and only rarely did it cut down a tree during the summer.

Since 1990 the saw has only been used for the BCIT field trips as it is much easier to perform our work on lakes during open water. The winter field trip has continued with BCIT as an early March date fits well into the FWR curriculum and it is much easier to teach 25 students when they can walk out on the ice and gather around than it is to put students in a multitude of boats.

The purpose of the BCIT Winter Limnology Field Trip in recent years has been to:

  1. Learn something about the ecology of small lakes in the winter in the southern interior of BC.
  2. Learn about limnology equipment and techniques.
  3. Learn how to work as small teams, integrating with a larger team, in order to get a complicated project done in a short time period.
  4. Collect samples, analyze and tabulate the data.
  5. Learn how to write up the data into a technical report in a short time period.
  6. Learn how to work under winter conditions in BC.

The Stihl 090 chainsaw is the starting point of all of my work out on a lake with the class. Once we have determined the depth of water we are standing over with an ice auger and depth measuring device I teach the students the proper way to cut a hole in the ice with the saw. First I put on safety gear and tell the students that they don’t need to put chain oil or any other lubricant in the oil reservoir as the water will lubricate the bar and chain plus we don’t want to pollute the water. Also, I tell them that to the best of my knowledge the chain (original chain) hasn’t been sharpened since the 1980’s as it doesn’t get dull cutting ice!

I start the saw flat on the ice, let it idle a bit to warm up and then stand the saw on the bar tip to let it cut vertically to the water. Once the bar has hit the water below the ice I let the saw do the work by digging the dogs into the ice and rocking it back and forth. Stand back as there is always a rooster tail of water coming off the chain! I slant the saw inward to the hole so the ice chunk will come out and make sure to stand outside of the ice chunk you are cutting, not the inside. Finally I finish the cuts vertically so that the ice chunk will be loose. A pair of ice tongs, many ice bars and many students makes short work of getting the ice chunk(s) out of the hole.

STIHL 090 ChainsawLessons learned over the years with this saw include; before shutting the saw off I always walk a distance away from the group and rev the saw up to clear any water then it is shut off and place up off the ice. There have been times during below 0 C weather with this class that the saw has frozen up and been difficult to start – very aggravating! This saw is over 30 years old and, now only using it on ice, it looks and runs like brand new.

From this initial hole I teach the students how to operate a jigger board under the ice. The sole purpose of this slotted plank with moveable steel and wooden pieces is to hug the underneath side of the ice and creep away from you by pulling, in a long pulling/rocking motion, on a thin rope attached. Once the jigger board is approximately 90 m from the first hole it is located to the best of our ability by pulling, with small quick motions, on the rope to activate a knocker (steel on steel to make a noise) at the back of the board. Knowing the length of the board, the appropriate distance is paced off and the chainsaw is used to cut another hole in the ice ahead of the board.

If sawdust is noticed on the ice, stop immediately as the board is being cut so move further away. A long rectangular hole is cut (perpendicular to the board) and this one big ice chunk is cut into smaller pieces to allow for easy removal. The reason for the long rectangular hole is that sound doesn’t travel straight up through ice and snow and this maximizes our chance of capturing the board. Someone at the first hole then uses the long pulling/rocking motion with the rope and the board comes into view in our second hole. It is snagged and brought up out of the hole. With this job complete there is now a rope under the ice between the 2 holes. With this rope under the ice, a gill net can be tied to one end of the rope at one hole and pulled through to the second hole.

We traditionally do 2 gillnet sets so now that I have demonstrated the use of the saw and the jigger board to the class it is their turn to use the equipment. Being female and using this huge saw that weighs approx. 35 lbs, impresses the students so lately it’s been the female students that volunteer to try. I am right there with them for safety reasons and also coaching them to let the saw do the work and not hurt their back. The students catch on very quickly and some of the smaller gals are very impressed that they can use such a large saw. Many photos are taken for bragging rights. Using the jigger board again, sending it out the approx. 90 m, the students try to locate the sound and then another student will volunteer to use the saw and cut the hole. Once the jigger board is out of the hole the second gill net is deployed and both sets are left in overnight.

The next morning the ice in the chain sawed holes is carefully chipped to reveal open water and the gill nets are pulled, being careful to attach a rope to one end of the net so after the net has been pulled out there is once again a rope under the ice between the 2 holes. The fish caught are examined, tabulated and carefully packed away on ice in coolers. The students now get to have hands-on use with other type of limnology equipment. The rope under the ice is used to do a horizontal plankton net tow (very fine mesh net) between the 2 holes to see what invertebrates (fish food) are living in the water column. The samples are collected, preserved and packed away. The holes are also used to deploy the plankton net vertically from bottom to top of the water column and the same process with the samples is repeated. A Ponar dredge, which is a device that is dropped from ice surface to the bottom substrate of the lake, is triggered and collects a sample of substrate. This substrate is sieved and the organisms that are living in this surface substrate at the bottom of the lake are collected, preserved and packed away. The Plankton net and the Ponar dredge are used in all 4 holes. All samples collected are taken back to BCIT for analysis.

The final task out on the lake is to locate the deepest part of the lake using a bathymetric map (contour map similar to a topographic map but the reverse showing the contours of the bottom). Once that site is located another student uses the chainsaw to cut a hole large enough to use a water quality meter to do a profile of the lake. Measurements are taken every metre from top to bottom on parameters such as water temp, dissolved oxygen, Specific conductance, pH and turbidity, and the values are recorded. This data is then used to determine where water samples should be taken. The students are then shown how to use a Kemner bottle (a tube shaped device with a removable cap on either end), lower it into the water at a specific depth and then trigger the caps to close and capture water at a specific depth. Water samples are collected and sent away to a lab at the Coast for various parameters to be analyzed.

Ice FIshingDuring spare moments the students are taught about the various biological and chemical processes that take place in our small interior lakes. All data and samples that are collected during this field trip are taken back to BCIT for analysis and then the class writes a technical report on all of the findings and sends it to me to add to our knowledge on that particular lake.

The 090 Stihl chainsaw is an integral piece of equipment for this BCIT winter Limnology field trip. It has been dependable over the 30+ years it has been in use and has enough power to easily cut through 60 cms of ice in some of our higher elevation lakes in the Southern Interior.

I have been dealing with Ida Supply Ltd. in Kamloops since the early 1980’s, mostly in regards to this chainsaw. For 99% of the year this saw lives in the MoE’s heated warehouse, with the gas drained, in a large wooden box that we built for it a long time ago. At the end of February, as this saw only gets used the first week of March, I take it to Chuck at Ida Supply Ltd. for a quick go over, as I am not a small motor mechanic. I need this saw to start right away and perform well when I am with the class as everything we do out on the lake depends on it. Chuck always greets me with a huge smile as I know that he likes seeing this saw. Apparently the Stihl 090 gear drive isn’t made anymore and word gets round that it is in the shop. I enjoy going to Ida Supply. Chuck always makes me feel welcome as the conversation is easy as we talk about our personal lives, what is going on in the Ministry or the latest car restoration project going on in the shop – he has been there as long as I can remember. The service is great as the saw has been dependable for the 30+ years that I have been using it (except for times in the early days when winters were much colder and the saw froze up as I didn’t know any better)!

Thank you to Ida Supply Ltd. in Kamloops, BC and Happy 40th Anniversary!

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