Kenai Dipnetting 2017

Charlie, Lucy, and I spent the day at the mouth of the Kenai River fishing alongside 1000 other like-minded Alaskans. This is dipnet fishing, an anachronistic subsistence activity that citizens of Alaska get excited about. You can take 35 fish per household using a 5-foot diameter dipnet connected to a long aluminum pole. The season lasts about a month. For many, its a "fill the freezer" activity. For others, its just a day well spent.

It works like this: You bundle up, don the chest waders, and wade in up to your chest sliding the net out in front of you. You position the hoop upright it so it rests on the sandy bottom. Then you wait. There is someone standing to your right and left (about arms length away) doing the same thing. The line of dipnetters at the Kenai mouth stretches for about a 1/2 mile. Family members sit in lawn chairs up the beach. It sounds crazy, but salmon, migrating up the river along the shoreline, simple swim into your net.

A great flock of gulls is continuously swooping up and down the beach, fish jump around you, small planes come and go all day, people chit chat or holler instructions to one another.

Seals position themselves about 100 yards offshore in the channel. People laugh and talk and whoop when their net starts to thrash. You know the next wave of fish has arrived by the domino-like progression of people flipping their net flat against the bottom and backing up onto the beach, fish in tow. Not every nets gets a fish - its a random deal. But when they hit, they hit hard. About ever 10 minutes you or one of your neighbors nets a 5-lb sockeye. The seals catch fish seemingly at will. You hope for sunshine and small waves and good waders. We had 2 out of 3 today.

Beach Geology: The beach here exhibits a classic East Coast profile: Estuarine delta, sandy shoreface, sand-gravel beach, vegetated dune complex with washover breaks, a brackish lagoon that yields to a freshwater marsh behind.

Charlie won 2nd Prize for Best Garth Brooks Shorts.

We fished from 3:30pm to about 8pm and caught 11 reds. C. Hamilton photo.

C. Hamilton photo.

C. Hamilton photo.

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