Dipnetting with Keith and Jane

Took my first trip to the Kenai River to dipnet for sockeye salmon with college buddies Todd and Keith.  Todd lives in Anchorage.  I flew up Friday night and we drove down to Kenai and arrived about midnight.  We were up at 4:30 am, Jane made us breakfast, then  off to the River with Keith.  It was about a 20 minute run or less from his guide service dock at Beaver Creek Cabins.  I had heard what a madhouse the fishery was, but it’s something you have to see to believe.  I figured about 250 to 300 boats with Alaska residents participating in a personal use, Alaska resident-only  fishery which allows 25 fish per head of household with another 10 fish for each additional person in the household,  in a half mile stretch.  The process is you idle downstream with your dipnet over the side, and if a fish goes in the net, you pull up the net, put the fish in the boat, and try again.  When you reach the end of your drift, you pull the nets up and the
captain runs the boat back up to the start again.  You dipnet along the shore, mostly, and run back upriver up the middle of the river.  As the tide goes out, the river gets narrower and narrower until the dipnetters and those returning upstream are right next to each other going opposite directions.  The commercial fleet was not fishing on Saturday, and so were tied up in the river, which was another obstacle to avoid.  Luckily Keith is a seasoned Kenai River guide and had no trouble keeping us out of the way of other boats and the commercial boats.
We caught 72 sockeye between us, and returned to Keiths dock, where we cleaned all our catch.  I dressed my share of fish and then helped Keith finish filleting his share.  Then we went to the store to buy shipping boxes and ice for the fish.  We bought sweet corn and zucchini, and made the corn, zucchini, salmon fillets and some black tail deer I brought down on the grill, and added some Bushs beans and potato salad for a big dinner.  On Sunday morning we slept in a bit, and Keith made us pancakes with some whitetail deer bacon and then back to Anchorage for a beautiful drive on a sunny day and 70 degrees.
This was my first trip to Kenai during the summer, and it is something to see all the activity there between sport fishermen, tourists, commercial fishing, and dipnetters.  During the winter, the place is quiet and almost a different world.  Already looking forward to going again next year.  Would not want to be the boat driver, but the dipnetting part sure was fun and all the boats made it exciting.

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK  99801

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