Rainy, sandy, fishy and muddy: Dipnetting on the Kenai

We participated in a Southcentral Alaskan tradition this year — dipnetting. Alaskans are allowed to pull up to25 fish per head of household and an additional 10 per family member out of the river as sockeyes swim upstream to spawn in mid- to late-July. These 5- to 6-foot nets are held out in the water while standing waist to chest deep in the river. It’s a game of patience. Patience and trying to stay warm. We fished at the very popular mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska. Friends and seasoned dipnetters invited us to camp on the beach with them and showed us the ropes.

The high end of the beach was lined with tents three deep for as far as the eye could see. Wet clothes draped over camp chairs and huddled around our sand pit fire got more smokey than dry in the nearly constant rain. Fish carcasses lay strewn about the beach, waiting for the tide to come in and wish the remains away. I sat on an ice chest a couple yards from a woman filleting fish like a pro with her Ulu while her husband carried his catch up the beach to her and returned with an empty net for more.

It was rainy, sandy, fishing and muddy. And we are looking forward to going back next year to fill our freezer with fresh caught salmon.

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