*Note: I will be making a video which will let you "be there" for dip-netting and illustrate much of what I'm writing. That may not happen for a few days. We're enjoying our last days with Dad.
Dip-Netting is an uniquely Alaskan experience. One must reside in Alaska for 12 consecutive months before they are allowed to participate. Without that box checked, one cannot even help clean fish on the beach. We have been "residents" of Alaska since 2003, but we have not resided in Alaska since 2005, due to our military career. We have not been able to have property tax relief, in-state tuition or in-state fishing privileges until THIS summer. We were excited to do this. Our goal is to fill our freezer with Red salmon and silvers, smoke and can pinks and possibly get a moose.....this will greatly help with our grocery expenses in the upcoming year.
We've been talking with friends and gathering intel. We discovered "the week" to go fishing, and booked a site. We discussed what gear we needed, and spent a small fortune on getting what we could. John and Jacque, friends from church and Life Group, LOANED us their dip nets and other gear. John also talked to Michael about using a hand truck to carry our coolers back and forth from the camp to the beach. THIS helped much - and made dip-netting much more doable. We had booked our dates according to what Ed and Jen, more friends from church and Life Group, told us would be good. They invited us to join their annual dip netting group, which allowed us to learn from the masters. Cory took time off work and they joined us. Dad ended up being here this week and we were happy he'd get to observe this ritual.
The pictures will tell the story below. However, a bit of backstory. One takes a net - 3 or 5 feet in diameter (we saw only 5 feet), with a long pole handle attached. Some attach two really long handles, some float down the river holding just the net. They catch fish, bonk them, hook them on their suit and keep floating. For most, the net is guided into a spot as far out as one can get in the river. We fished at the mouth of the Kenai river - in salt water. You stand in water up to your chest and wait for a fish to swim into your net. The nets are heavy. We had beautiful weather, but it can be rainy and cold. The waves get fairly rough as the day goes on. They would be much rougher in rain. When a salmon hits, you drag your net out of the water as quickly as possible...dodging other fishermen, nets, kids....the salmon is bonked, untangled, bled and put in a cooler. In our group Jenny and I did most of this so those with nets could get back out to the water as quickly as possible.
This was our first trip in the RV since moving here. We discovered lots of little things to take care of on our way out of town, which made us a bit behind the rest of the group. CoRielle and Benny waited for us in the Fred Myer's parking lot in Soldotna. RVers - you can stay here for 3 days free. There are porta potties, water, a dump station, dumpsters...
|Benny, Cory, Arielle|
|Cory, Alex and gear|
The rest of us hung out on the bluff and watched eagles and the scene below.
Cory caught two - the first of our family catch.
As we pulled in Monday night, we saw Ian. We knew Ian and Becky from San Angelo. We were in the same homeschool support group, Michael and Ian knew each other from the base, and they were part of the food co-op we ran from our home. It was fun to meet up 13 years later on the Kenai beach. We will plan something before next year.
|Becky and I|
There were two tides on Tuesday. Here are some shots from the morning tide.
|Stacia and I untangle a fish|
Our group lined coolers up, Jenny and I untangled, bonked, bled and stored fish in coolers. We also schlepped chairs and coolers down the beach as the tide went out. Arielle, Benny and Dad came down for a close up view.
Stacia didn't want anything to do with the bonking of fish and wasn't sure she wanted to try dip-netting. I told her she didn't have to, but to let me know if she changed her mind and wanted to try fishing. We had two nets in the water at a time. Cory had his own.
The beach crew
Some of our group in the water - orange hats were a brilliant idea, Jen!
|Cory, Michael, Ed, ?, Alex|
By the end of our first tide, Stacia wanted to try. Cory helps her guide her net into place.
Cleaning the catch from the morning tide. Michael and Alex ended up with 10 salmon. Cory caught 2.
|Cory's morning haul|
|Duct taping the connections so they don't catch in other's nets|
|Cory, Michael, Stacia|
|Michael, Stacia (Cory behind Michael)|
Stacia has a fish
CoRielle and Benny
Fireweed along the trail back to camp
Michael, Stacia and Alex caught another 9 salmon. That brought our first day's total to 19. Cory caught 4 the second day. We were happy. We pushed the hand truck back up the bluff. We cleaned off fish. We took warm showers and got ready for Wednesday morning tide.
|Compliments of Jennie|
Wednesday morning Michael was sore. He'd fished 2 tides. He wanted to take a break. Cory went down with the group. Michael rested and we went down an hour or so later. We arrived when the fish were hitting. There was only one tide on this day that we were allowed to fish (I think).
|Alaskan Beach Wear|
|I like fireweed|
Our coolers to schlep - from the blue on the left to the white on the right and the red up front.
Alex had a great day on Wednesday
Cory had a great tide!
Our Wednesday totals were 8 for Alex, 6 for Stacia and 4 for Michael - a total of another 18 salmon. We caught 36 all together. Far from our limit - but a great start. Cory caught 13 on Wednesday, 19 all together.
This is the day I learned how to clean fish. Michael was fishing and said, "De'Etta, start cleaning the fish." Hmmm...I've NEVER done this - EVER - not with trout, pike - never. I HAD watched a lot of cleaning in the last two days. I figured you slit them and pull everything out. I did it. Michael and Alex came out of the water and helped finish. Mikayla (Ian and Becky's daughter), gave me some tips. I've never felt like such an Alaskan woman as I did standing on the beach, surrounded by salmon and covered in fish slime and guts. Odd, I know.
This gentleman smokes and cans his fish at the campsite. I like this idea. LOL
This was a great system for drying waders and such between tides
Thursday, we reserved for next year. We got a spot which will allow us to pitch our tent. Josiah and Izaak are saying they will put in for time off early next year. Yay - we'll have a family fish camp. How Alaskan is THAT?????
It is this groups tradition to move on to Seward after fishing a couple of days. They go to the military resort and use the fish house and commercial vacuum sealers to package their fish. Then they enjoy a couple of nights in Seward after all the hard work.
The guys have stations...The fish were de-slimed, filleted, de-boned, and sent to the packaging table
These two filled their time with sharing pastor stories.
|Michael and David - compliment of Jennie|
Drying fillets and packaging them
Dad and Lauri sealed the fish. I went between the table and the vacuum sealer - wherever it seemed the most help was needed.
|Dad seals some fish|
We opted to come home rather than spending extra days in Seward. If we'd had the Jeep with us, we may have stayed and showed dad some sights. However, we wanted Dad to have time with the other kids, Michael was worn out....in fact Friday turned out to be a very late and sore day for him. It was a good call to come home.
Nolan had to stay home as he started his new job this week. He took care of Yuuki, chickens and bunnies.
Our first adventure with only two children in many years
Need I say - We love Alaska? If we can't be overseas - this is certainly the next best thing. We are thankful JaRissa moved up here and started the migration....or we may still be zipping around the lower 48, living in the RV. LOL