ANCHORAGE -

Andrew Harrelson found himself with an ironic problem during a lazy Sunday on the Fish River: fishing was not going well.

The salmon teased him from the clear waters of the river, just outside White Mountain. He only caught one all morning, even though he could see them swimming all over the southern Seward Peninsula waterway.

Harrelson decided it was time to slow down and take in his surroundings. He was near the bend in the river where, 20 or so years ago, his mother spotted the telling smooth surface of an ancient artifact.

Harrelson remembers being either 3 or 4 years old, playing outside, when he spotted his parents ride home on a four-wheeler with a big tusk sticking off the back rack.

“I knew it had to be something,” Harrelson said. “So I went over and checked it out, and they were still pretty in shock as well.”

Harrelson says he doesn’t remember much from that moment, except his mother posing for a picture beside the curved relic.

Since then, the particular river bend has revealed all sorts of treasures. Harrelson knows of at least two other wooly mammoth tusk finds, and numerous mammoth teeth discoveries.

The bend is home to a deep fishing hole. White Mountain locals say it must have been an ancient mud hole, where migrating animals would get stuck and eventually die.

That’s what Harrelson believes, too.

On Sunday, when he realized where he was, he let up on his riverboat’s tiller and began scanning the water for fossils.

He says it hadn’t been 10 seconds when his eye caught a dark shape poking out from beneath a root.

“I spotted the root, the start of the tusk, you know,” he said. “It felt so unreal.”

Harrelson repositioned his boat, threw his anchor out and called out to his fiancée, Renee Parker.

“She said, ‘No way, how do you know?’" Harrelson said. "And I said, ‘I just have a feeling, you know.’”

He described his find as a dark, greenish-black figure.

“I knew it wasn’t a stick because there was no limbs, no branches coming off. It was really smooth,” he said. “I told myself, 'That’s a tusk.'”

Parker began looking around and she found the tip of the tusk on the other side of the root.

Harrelson enlisted a friend to help pull the mammoth find out of the water and brought it home to Nome.

He says he is still deciding what to do with the tusk and has been considering several offers.

His family jokes that it will be used as a wedding arch at his and Parker’s wedding.

“If we still have it when the wedding comes," Harrelson said. "Why not?”