By Steve Herschbach
This is the latest version of the 1997 Gold Panning: A Guide to Recreational Gold Panning on the Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest, Alaska
The guide has been newly updated for 2018 and can be downloaded here for free
By Steve Herschbach
I am a big fan of the Fisher F75 from a different perspective than most. I am a prospector and have done very well finding gold nuggets with the F75. The very powerful all metal mode combined with the simultaneous on screen target id numbers have allowed me to quickly and efficiently hunt trashy tailing piles in search of large gold nuggets. The light weight and superb balance make the F75 a pleasure to use for long hours in rough terrain. It also was my detector of choice for my one and only trip to the UK that I have done so far, and it served me well there.
I spent a month in 2013 metal detecting on Jack Wade Creek near Chicken, Alaska. I kept my great results there quiet pending a return trip there in 2014. That trip has now been made but that is another story already told in detail on my website. Now I can finally reveal the details of the 2013 expedition.
I started out early one morning with my big gun pulse induction metal detector, but got onto a tailing pile that had ferrous trash scattered down one side, and I was just not in the mood for it that morning. I went back to my truck and got out my trusty F75. I run the F75 in all metal because it has instant target response; there are no worries about recovery times in all metal. The coil picks up every variation not only in targets but in the ground allowing me to monitor what is going on at all times. Knowing what the ground is doing is important in keeping the ground balance properly adjusted for maximum results.
The key thing I like about the F75 in all metal however is that the meter always runs in discrimination mode and places a nice, large target number on screen while in all metal. The audio alerts me to a potential target, which I then analyze more carefully while watching the target numbers. All metal goes deeper than discrimination modes, so no on screen number means a very deep target beyond discrimination range. This alone makes running in all metal desired when prospecting because running in discrimination mode would miss all those extra deep signals.
In all metal I dig them until a target number shows up. Deep targets or small targets in mineralized ground will often read ferrous, so I watch the numbers and if they even once jump to non-ferrous, I dig. Only targets that give a 100% strong ferrous reading over multiple sweeps can be safely passed. Though I will throw in my caveat that no discrimination system is 100% accurate and there is always a risk of passing a good target. When in doubt, dig it out!
I do often employ pulse induction detectors and do very often just dig everything. I advocate that when time and conditions allow. The reality is this is not always practical for many reasons. Maybe it is just limited time and overwhelming amounts of junk. Better to increase the odds by using discrimination than bogging down digging 100 nails in a small area. In my case it often boils down to fatigue or flat out not being in the mood to dig junk.
So it was on this particular morning, and therefore my F75 came out and I got to work sorting through the trash working my way up the side of the tailing pile. I crested the top and got a strong reading and looked down. There was a shallow dig hole with leaves in it, obviously from some hunter there in prior years. I figured the guy had recovered a trash item and kicked it back in the hole so I cussed him quietly under my breath. I hate it when people do that!
Then the target numbers caught my eye. They were all over the place. A crumpled piece of flat steel might give numbers like that though. Still, I was curious and figured I would retrieve the trash this person left in the field. I gave the old dig hole a big scoop, and out pops a big gold nugget!!
I seem to have a talent for finding ugly gold nuggets, and this one was perhaps the ugliest I have ever found. It looked more like a rock burnt in a fire than a gold nugget when I dug it up, though the glint of gold is unmistakable. This gold however was very pale and in fact later analysis revealed it to be roughly half gold and half silver and other metals.
It is a little known fact that gold alloys tend to have very poor conductivity ratings. Gold is very conductive, and silver is a superb conductor. You would think adding silver to gold would improve the conductivity, but in fact just the opposite happens, and the conductivity lowers dramatically. Gold/silver alloys are closer to lead in conductivity than that of the pure component metals, explaining why bullets read identically to most gold nuggets.
This ugly nugget is a detectorists worst nightmare, because the 50-50 alloy mix and rock content give it a much lower conductivity reading than would be the norm. I surmise what happened is this earlier operator got a poor signal and gave a dig to get the coil closer to the target. The signal did not improve, as would be expected with most gold nuggets, so the operator decided it was trash and moved on. The rest of the hill being covered with junk no doubt contributed to this decision.
It was my insistence on investigating everything except 100% ferrous readings that made the difference. The readings on this target were not solid as one would expect from a pretty strong signal but all over the place. Most people would say that indicates a trash target but I have seen many gold nuggets do the same thing in mineralized ground. The result is I dug a shallow 2.33 ounce gold nugget that somebody else walked away from. Sadly for them one more scoop would have revealed the nugget for what it was. Hopefully this is a reminder to the reader that far too often detectorists look for excuses not to dig. How many good finds get left behind because we do not want to take that extra minute or two to dig a target?
This nugget is far from a premium find, but I have already sold it for over twice the cost of a new Fisher F75. That detector was a real money maker for me as that was far from the only gold I ever found with it.
Unfortunately I say was. I made a huge change in my life in 2013 and moved from Alaska to Reno, Nevada. The move resulted in a desire for me to weed down my detector collection. I was pretty excited to do some coin detecting in Nevada where the potential finds were much better than those possible around Anchorage, Alaska.
Almost all my detecting with the F75 had previously taken place in rural locations far from possible electrical magnetic interference. In Reno, EMI raised its ugly head. I found much to my dismay that the F75 did not like my new location, and in fact when turned on to hunt the yard at my new home I could not get it to settle down at all. No matter what I did the machine chirped and beeped and numbers flew all over the screen. Unfortunately I experienced what many urban hunters have found out – the F75 is a very sensitive high gain detector that does not get along well with electrical interference. I ended up selling my F75 in 2013 for this sole reason.
Fast forward to the fall of 2014. I am contacted by the good folks at Fisher wanting to know if I am interested in trying out a new version of the F75 they are preparing for market. I of course say sure as I am always game to go metal detecting with different units. A new F75 is sent my way along with a list of the possible improvements. One immediately gets my attention – improved resistance to electrical interference.
All the focus was on a new mode or “process”, as Fisher likes to call them. The new FA process is intended to better pull non-ferrous items out of trashy or mineralized ground. It does indeed work as advertised as I found out in an accidental situation I came across.
I went to a local park and did a simple hunt for non-ferrous targets, comparing the DE default mode to the new FA fast mode. I did not really care what I found as long as it was non-ferrous. I should note the ground here is very difficult, reading 1 on the Fe meter, the second highest reading you can obtain. Hunting in this park is very much like nugget detecting, and the best detectors get very limited depth and highly inaccurate target numbers as a result of the high mineralization.
One spot really summed it all up for me. I found three targets I could cover in a single wide swing that all read as ferrous in DE mode, but when I switched to FA mode all three switched to non-ferrous. FA mode is very fast with short, machine gun type reports in the audio. I was running in two tone mode, with ferrous giving low tones and non-ferrous high tones. In DE mode I could sweep and get three low tones in a row. Simply switch to FA mode and now there were three high tone reports in a row. This was an extremely dramatic result seen in person. In this case all three targets proved to be nothing more than aluminum targets, but they could just as well have been small hammered coins in the UK or small gold nuggets in Alaska.
I hate to oversell things and I have to note that the difference in going to FA mode is not going to be earth shaking. Most targets read the same in DE and FA modes. But FA provides a tipping point, a little push that takes targets previously ignored and lights them up. By shortening the audio response on targets it also attenuates responses to a degree and so depth and signals on the tiniest targets may be impacted. Depth however is not useful if a target is misidentified or ignored completely due to target masking from nearby objects. FA mode is another tool in the toolbox that can help produce targets in specific situations previously overlooked by others.
The new F75 also expands on the available audio options in ways many people will appreciate. These additions and the new FA mode will tend to get all the attention, but for me they pale in comparison to the new ability of the F75 to engage and disengage the new Digital Shielding Technology (DST). The version of the F75 I received had DST engaged at all times, and the difference in my ability to use the F75 at my home was as dramatic as it gets. My previous F75 was basically non-functional. My new F75 ran just fine, with only minimal EMI discernible at higher gain levels.
I noted no downside to this. Given the situation, how could there be? Other field testers however were concerned that in low EMI situations perhaps there was an edge lost by having DST engaged, and so Fisher decided to add the ability to engage or disengage the feature as desired. It does not get any better than that. Use it if you need it; leave it off if you do not.
All I know is this. What difference is there between a detector you can use and one you cannot use? All the difference in the world, and in my opinion I struck gold a second time with the F75 seeing it run with the new Digital Shielding Technology. That one feature alone means I can use the F75 in urban areas where I could not use it before, and vastly improves the reasons for my owning the detector once again. I am very confident a great many people will agree with me when they get a chance to try out the new, improved F75. Everything else in my opinion is just icing on the cake.
Hi guys, Well as you probably know now, Phrunt (Simon) is the proud owner of a GPX 4500, & proud he is. Can't wipe the smile off his face. He has been gagging to get out in the hills for a spin with it. He ordered & got a little Coiltek 10 x 5 joey mono coil before the weekend as the two coils that came with his 4500 were both DD's. So Saturday morning my door bell was ringing at 7.10 am. Was supposed to be 7.30. He must have left home at about 6 am & didnt speed as the last weekend he got a speed camera fine. I was just having my breakfast & a coffee, so I made him a coffee as well. I had sorted out an external speaker for him since he is allergic to headphones. Coffee done & we were off. I took him back to the spot where he got his two bits with his Gold Monster as there are heaps of workings up there. It was a hell walk in & not one I look forward to. Only the one old pack track access in & out.
The proud 4500 owner standing on the pack track. To the right of his left shoulder the track winds its way up & through that gorge & somewhere up in the clouds beyond the gorge is our destination.
Around the corner & into the gorge.
We stopped for a breather & a short detect on some very shallow bed rock & some small workings. I thought it might be good for Simon to have a play here with the joey mono & to get our breaths back. I went a wee bit further targeting a bit deeper ground. I had not used the Zed on this spot at all. But had done well with the Gold Monster on tiny gold. I got rigged up & started detecting & I saw Simon somewhat alarmed. He had charged his battery over night & it read 8 volts when he fired it up. He plugged the external speaker into it & all of a sudden the detector died. Down to flat battery & 1.9 volts. WTF.... I had given him another battery of mine incase his one didn't last the day. Tried that one & the exact same thing happened. We were both baffled. More so Simon as he had been playing with the detector over the last few days & all seemed fine. Got all the way up here & no go... He tried factory presets. Turned it off...back on....& just straight to flat battery...on both of them. Pulled the cable out tried plugging it in again. Still no joy. I said to turn the cable around & try. Still nothing. Nothing happening at all. I said we may as well have a coffee, I had brought a thermos, & then head back down to my place & re group & re think our plans. So we had a coffee & were just dumb struck as to what the problem may be. Hopefully not the detector. So after our coffee Simon tried once more & bingo 8 volts & up & running. Whew....game on. Thank goodness for that. Never missed a beat all day & all on the one battery.
So we were both off detecting. Simon was getting signals but none were gold. But he was happy at the small stuff the joey was hitting on. Just had to walk over some gold. He was poking & proding in all the right places but the gold wasn't coming his way. Somehow we swapped around & I ended up trying the Zed over the shallow bedrock where I had done well with the GM 1000. Not thinking for A second that the Zed would get anything here. got a very faint signal.
That little bit of a scrape between the coil & the scope & out popped this.
I couldn't believe it nor could Simon as he combed over this bedrock with his GM 1000 last time up here & I would have gone over it with mine as well. It was down maybe a little bit out of reach of the GM. We did have a lot of rain the night before & I fared the weather would be crap for the whole weekend. But as I have said before & I will say it again, I believe the wet ground helps out in getting better depth & more sensitivity. Note the wetness on the coil.
It didn't end there either. I got another signal that had me getting down into this hole in the schist.
You will notice that crack dropping down the face of the schist to the bottom of the picture still packed with material.
I got a small piece of gold out of that hole & there was another very faint signal coming from that vertical crack. I ended up scrapping that crack as much as I could with the pick but I couldn't get to the signal.
I went up to my smoko bag & got out my pocket knife. Where was my screwdriver that I normally have in my backpack? Raked the crack out with the knife.
A small piece of gold popped out .
But it still wasn't over.
It was just crazy. They kept coming
Two bits from the one dig.
There was a third but once I moved it I lost it & no high frequency VLF to sniff it out.
That was my lot from the bedrock so I moved onto an old pile from the old timers where I had got a few bits with my 4500 & the NF 12 x 7. Couldn't believe it but I got a good signal with the Zed. There was a bit of depth to it in just a loamy soil & no bedrock.
Well bugger me
Before backfilling I got another very faint hit. And another tiny bit of gold.
Simon in the meantime was still goldless but getting tiny bits of rubbish. Just has to swing it over some gold. We moved on. I had some more major workings to take him to & let him unleash himself on. Got him up there & left him to it. There was lots of very promising ground for the little coiltek joey mono. I headed back to a spot where I had got quite a few little bits in deeper ground & where Simon had got his two bits with his GM 1000 on our last trip in here. I had not finished detecting the area to my liking so wanted to finish it off. Long story short. I got nothing where I really thought I would. No matter how hard I tried. I headed to a most unlikely looking spot. On the top of a spur with deep loamy soil & no bedrock in sight.
Found an old broken spade.
An old timers riveted shovelhead.
Got a signal that had junk written all over it. Signal out & no bedrock in sight.
But gold it was.
This pic is taken from the spur I was standing on & similar to that next spur over. Up high from the gully floor. Glacially pushed & deposited gold...has to be. No water worn rocks on this spur. There was higher up where Simon was detecting.
I then got a good hit that was right on the edge of a bit of a drop off. Dug down onto it & again it was just this loamy soil. But it was getting deep. So I got the pointy end of my pick & drove into it. Crunch...the pick hit schist. I thought that if the signal carries down to that then I am in with a good chance of a better piece of gold....or not.
The schist was to the right of the scoop but then the schist dropped away & I was back into the loamy soil & the signal in that. Again I drove the pick into the soil hoping to here the crunch of schist again. But no joy. Bugger...going to be rubbish. Then the signal was out.
The best bit of the day.69 of a gram.
I got three more small bits after that one . It was starting to get dark. I got a txt from Simon to say he had got none. I was surprised we had coverage in here. I replied but he wasn't getting all my txts. I was in a bit of a blind gully but I was telling him we needed to make a move. Luckily we had head lamps & we needed them. I got into a better spot & phoned him. Along he came & we were out of there. Pitch black by the time we got back to the wagon. We were both leg sore from that. I couldn't believe Simon got no gold. Later he told me he had not been digging the real faint ones. I said they are the most likely ones. He was just so used to the VLF's screaming out on shot gun pellets.
Mrs JW had gone up north for a week so Simon stayed at my place that night & we had an attack on another spot the next day. We went in Simon's car & I left my phone in it so have no photos of that days mission. Simon did & he is going to take over a post on his day. So I will leave it over to him. My result that day was 5 small bits.
So on the left of the coil is Saturdays finds & sundays on the right. total of just over 2 grams. Have I ever said how the Zed continues to blow me away on its small gold finding abilities??
Cheers & best of luck out there
Last Saturday Phrunt (Simon) turned up at my place at 9am. I had the Zed all packed up & ready to go. Simons "new" GPX 4500 hadn't turned up in time so he was taking along his GM 1000 & Gold Bug Pro to compare the two. On our arrival at the car park area we were the only vehicle parked there. We had a bit of a hike to get to where I wanted to take him. We broke the hike up with a detect at some old workings that I hadn't been to for ages. I had never had a VLF over them & as there was a fair amount of shallow ground & sheet bedrock I thought it was as good a spot as any for Simon to swing his VLF's. I think he started off with the GM & was making a hell of a racket with signals every other step. Using no headphones & just the internal speaker, gezzzz your a noisy bugger I said to him... He was just getting shotgun pellet after shotgun pellet & no gold. I had been over this area quite few years ago with my GP 3000 & little Coiltek 10 x 5 joey mono & done pretty good. The wild thyme bushes had taken off & trying to swing the Zed's coil among them was impossible to get down to the ground. So I headed off to the side of the workings & targeted the sheet bed rock. I was walking up a small gutter covered in grass growth when I got a good hit. Turned out to be a fragment of tin from an old tin matchbox. Moved on a few feet & got another good solid hit. Thinking it was just going to be the same I was surprised when the signal lived on down through the gravels to the schist bedrock.
scrapping the bed rock the signal finally moved.
A sassy little bit of gold. Ye Ha
.69 of a gram
That was a loner though as no more came to light. Nothing for Simon either. So after maybe a couple of hours I made the call to carry on with our hike.
After probably another hour of walking we came to the workings that I wanted to get stuck into. Well bugger me. On getting there there were two other chaps in there detecting. One with a Zed & the other with what Simon said was a GB2. They weren't overly talkative & were probably pissed off that we had come along. Bugger I said to Simon. We moved up the workings a bit & dropped our packs & detectors. I said to Simon, lets just go for a walk over to the next gully & have a look. Did this, came back to our gear & these other two had packed up & were heading off further up. They had ridden up here on Electric mountain bikes & they were gone in a flash. I had contemplated an Electric mountain bike a few years earlier but the price of them put me off. Seeing how easy they just rode off up the hill did impress me. So I am looking at them now 6.5 & up to 12 grand is pretty daunting though. Few ounces of gold there. Any way....they were gone so we jumped "their" spot. I then noticed another chap walking up the hill with a detector. Bloody hell I said to Simon....check that out. 5 of us up here detecting. Never have I come across so many. I don't normally see another soul. He walked right up this gully & I moved off detecting to avoid him but he bailed Simon up & must have gassed to Simon for an hour. Wasting valuable detecting time. Simon said he kept trying to get away from him but he just kept on going. He had a 4500 so I think Simon may have picked his brains a bit. So it wasnt all a waste of time.
Mean while I was getting a few rubbish signals & no gold. When Simon finally got into some detecting he just picked up right where he left off...with shot gun pellets ever step. I finally got a faint mellow signal.
It lived on down a bit, more so than pellets , I did get my share but nowhere near as many as Simon. It was a small bit of gold.
.09 of a gram
I walked up past Simon, who had been targeting old turned over throw out piles. In this pic he was swinging the Gold Bug Pro & still getting more than his share of pellets. You will see his GM to the right lying in the thyme bushes & my Zed hard center left. After taking the pic I headed to that pile of stones back this way from Simon. Left click once to enlarge the pic. Let it refocus & left click again & it will go full screen for better detail.
I got a faint but definite signal. I called Simon over & marked the spot with a light boot scrape. Said to Simon to try there. He got a faint hit. I scraped at it until it had moved. Simon pinpointed it for me & it was a tiny shotgun pellet size piece of gold.
.06 of a gram
Unbelievable. But that was it. I went off elsewhere leaving Simon to explore around there. But I got nothing more. Dark wasn't far off & l wondered back down using Simons noisy racket from his continued shotgun pellet signals screaming out from his GM as my homing in pigeon to locate him . Told him we had better make a move as we had a bit of a walk to get back to the car. Got back just on pitch black. Wouldn't have wanted to have been any later. There was a bit of stumbling & lurching as it was towards the end. Unfortunately Simon got skunked on the gold but made a fortune in lead. Three for the Zed for not even 1 gram.
Simon now has his 4500 & a new Coiltek 10 x 5 Joey mono coil is on its way to him. Look out this Saturday. Cheers.
Good luck out there