Having dipnetted for a grand total of 2.5 hours on the Kenai, this tough little expert has some top ten guidelines for this adventure:
10. Go with a local. A new friend set me up with his family to join them for the day.
9. Get a loaner net from a friend. These nets can cost up to $125!
8. Start just after low tide. This ensures you prime realestate along the mouth of the river.
7. Have a beater. Make sure that the local family you go out with has an enthusiastic young boy (under the age of ten) who likes to wield the bludger to shock the sockeye up the backside of his skull.
6. Have on chest high waders. Need I say more?
5. Be prepared to see children playing and swimming in the water next to an Aleut filleting fish and casting the innards into the water. Also, did I mention how cold that water is?
4. Use the bathroom before you get there! The portapotties rival a state fair on a hot day- even from afar.
3. Don’t look back! Once you feel a sockeye in the net, twist the net to the ground, and start hauling it to shore. Don’t look back at your net; you’re apt to lose your balance and fall in the water (author’s observation, not experience – thank goodness)
2. Watch for ships. There is a hate-hate relationship with the fishermen and the dipnetters. Boats do not observe a wake zone as they enter the channel and stir up mud, discard fish guts, and undertow as they make a mockery of those standing in chest high water, holding heavy, five foot wide dip nets, an a feigned attempt to remain stable.
1. Enjoy the view. While waiting for a sockeye to slip into the net, take a moment to soak in the nearby volcanoes, the Cook Inlet, your fellow dipnetters, and the range along the Kenai Peninsula.
I stood there in yard of my Kenai host, clad in long underwear, darn tough Vermont socks, my new chest waders, sportsbra, my long sleeve UPF fishing shirt, UPF neck kerchief, my wide brimmed hat; and my polarized sunglasses. I was HOT; but I knew the breeze at the river’s mouth would cool me. As stood in the chest high water, holding this long apparatus, the cold water sucked around me. I was thankful for the insulating layers.
Per my permit, I could have caught 35 (!) fish that day. I was limited on time. I left Tok at home (not wanting to burden my Kenai hostess with a dog; and, it was too hot to leave him in the car). A four hour round trip drive left me with only a few hours to fish and then cart my catch back to the house to clean and load into the cooler. I score 3 fish, which was 2 shy of my goal of 5; but I had a blast and learned a lot. Furthermore, I did not get wet (my number 1 goal).