Yesterday was a dream Alaskan day. I got to experience something I never imagined or considered I’d be doing. But sure enough, there I was at the mouth of the Kenai River out to my waist in rolling waves with a 5 ft. wide net at the end of a 10 ft. pole catching salmon as they tried to swim upstream.
Dip netting is this super cool way of fishing where you essentially stand with a giant net waiting for fish to swim into it. I really loved it because it is purely luck. It takes no skill, and you don’t have to worry about being quiet or making too much movement. It is also an extremely Alaskan thing: only permanent residents who have lived here for at least a year can do it. You also are required to get a permit, and there is a limit on the number of fish you can catch. Since Matt & I share a house hold, we are allowed to catch up to 35 salmon (25 for the head of house, 10 for each additional household member) and 10 flounder. Since Stephanie lives by herself, she could only catch up to 25 salmon and 10 halibut. Fish & Game is super strict about these rules. If they find out you were fishing without being a permanent 1 yr+ resident, they come to your house and fine you. If you don’t have your fishing license, permit, and government issued ID on you while fishing and they ask you for it, they fine you. Because Matt & I shared a permit, we could not both dip net at the same time, we had to alternate to share the permit.
Our day started out as most fishing days do: early. Our fishing group; me, Matt, Stephanie, Kristina, Lindsey, & Ryan; met at our house at the surprisingly dark outside hour of 3:30am. After getting the two trucks loaded up with gear and passengers, we began the two hour journey south to pick up our rental gear from a place in Sterling.
We arrived at the rental place at 6:05 am, only to find out that whoever booked our reservations didn’t know what a dip net was. During the planning of this adventure, I had talked to the company twice, and Ryan even called to confirm the quality of the dip nets and chest waders. At no point did the girl working reservations tell us that by ‘dip net’ she meant ‘net you use when you reel in fish.’
There is a huge difference. Dip nets are up to 5″ in diameter, with extremely long handles. Amazingly, there are no photos on google to show the difference, but you’ll see one what I mean in the photos I’m about to show.
Luckily, we had one dip net that Matt’s co-worker lent to us, so we stopped at walmart and bought two more. Dip nets are super expensive: ours were $143 each! ugh.
After that debacle, we were ready to hit the beach! Ryan had a friend already in Kenai who saved us parking spots on the beach, so we made our way over and got to drive on the beach!
By the time we got there and all set up, it was around 7:30 and we were ready to get started!
Steph & I grabbed the cooler we were going to throw our fish into and our nets and excitedly made our way down the wide beach to the car.
So one thing about this region of Alaska is that the tides are huge. The difference between low tide and high tide means well over 100 ft. of shoreline movement. When we parked our truck on the beach, it was about 300 ft. to the edge of the water. By the time high tide (noon) rolled around, we were about 100 ft. from the truck. It’s CRAZY!
First in the water was Stephanie, Ryan, Ryan’s awesome friend Brian, and me. Within 10 minutes of being out there, Ryan caught a fish! and then Stephanie caught a fish! and then Brian caught two fish! I was worried that I didn’t have the luck needed for this.
Unfortunately, Steph’s fish got free when she was trying to bring it in. But, she caught another one right as I had my first (and only!) catch of the day! When bringing to shore, I realized I had THREE FISH in my net! One made his way free, but I still had caught two at once! I was a freaking salmon whisperer!
After clipping their tails, stunning them with a mini-club, and Matt making them bleed out (man, fishing is violent) we were able to proudly examine our catch! Also, we were wusses and didn’t want to put our hands through the gills to hold them.
You can see Ryan, Kristina, Brian, and Lindsey in the background. That’s how far out you have to stand to catch the big boys! Also, I dropped my fish while trying to hold him and he got super sandy. Sad.
Then Steph and I relaxed on the beach while Lindsey, Matt, Brian, & Kristina went out for a go. Kristina recruited Ryan to help her with holding her net: they’re pretty bulky to manage and it’s easy to get worn out trying to hold them steady, prevent yourself from getting stuck in the mud, and stay upright as waves crash into you.
Soon enough, Matt & Lindsey both brought in fish of their own!
They actually know how to properly hold fish. Show-off’s.
Around noon, the water was at high tide and the waves were getting rough, so we decided it was the perfect time to break for lunch. We got out the travel coleman grill (seriously, best wedding gift ever) and made hot dogs, ate hummus, and drank some Alaskan beer on the beach. It was amazing, especially with the backdrop. The water was freezing, but the sun was so warm it felt hot. If it weren’t for the wind, it would have been perfect!
After lunch and a failed attempt to fish again (the water was just too rough) it was time for the not so fun part: gutting the fish before putting them on ice to bring home.
Matt taught Steph and Linds how to gut their own fish. He was super impressed that the girls were active in our fishing: I think he came on this trip fully expecting to do all the hard and gross stuff, and the fact that the girls were willing to club and gut their own fish (minus me. One perk of getting married is not having to do that unless I want too). Steph gutting with a smile
We left Kenai and stopped at a brewery to toast our excellent fishing day, and when we got back to our house we processed the fish and vacuum sealed it. Overall, it was an awesome trip. It was one of those experiences that made me feel like a true Alaskan. I can’t wait until next year when we do it all again!