Friday, September 14, 2012

The Head Lab, The Place to Be

Recently I was assigned to work in the "head lab" for a week.  The "head lab" is the affectionate name we call the back room off the lab.  It is the place where we extract the coded wire tag from the snouts of salmon.  The snouts were taken during spawning and biosampling.  I had never in my career cut snouts in search of a tag and I was not looking forward to it.

Anyway, I met Chuck in the head lab where he was busy cutting heads while listening to his favorite country radio station.  He set me up with a cutting board, a very sharp knife (bad idea), a hot cup of water, and a tag detector.  He patiently showed me the procedure.  First we checked the whole snout for a tag.  Sometimes during biosampling, a fish hook in the salmon may trigger the detector.  We did get a few of those. 

Once we determined the snout did have a tag, we went to work.  Basically, you keep cutting pieces of the snout and waving the piece in front of the detector.  If the detector goes off, the tag is in that piece.  Just to be sure though, you must check the other piece to be sure it is negative for a tag.  That piece can then be tossed. 

He showed me the target area where the tag can usually be found.  It took me a long time to find my first tag.  I also think we lost it at the end.  That happens sometimes.  Those tags are small.  I need glasses just to see them.  Anyway, after awhile, I think I got pretty good at this snout chopping business.  And it was not as bad as I thought it would be.  In fact, next year I plan to sign up for the duty myself. 

This coded wire tag is what I am trying to find.

I'm trying to find it in this fish head.

First we cut off the jaw.

I start to chop the snout into pieces.

Each piece is checked with the tag detector.

The tag is somewhere in this piece of flesh.

Tag sucessfully extracted and safefly in a bag, ready to be read.
Submitted by Donna Allard

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