Dipnetting for Salmon on the Kenai River

One thing that is unique about Alaska is that we can dipnet for salmon.  What is dipnetting?  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  We put a large net in the river (regulations require that it be 5 feet or less in diameter), and hope red salmon swim into it.  This is a subsistence fishery, for residents only.  The head of household can harvest 25 fish, and each additional family member adds 10 fish to the total.  For our family, this means we can net 55 fish to fill our freezer.

In order to do this, you need to get a dipnet permit as well as have your normal fishing license.  There are 2 permits, one for Cook Inlet which is mainly the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, and one for the Copper River.  During mid-July, most of Anchorage converges on the Kenai River in hopes of filling the freezer for the year.  Many of the fish are smoked or canned to preserve them.
When you go dipnetting, make sure to bring your net, your waders, and a cooler full of ice.  When the fish are in and there are hundreds of people on the river, most stores run out of ice (and coolers!).  To preserve your fish, you want to bleed them and either fillet them or gut them as soon as possible.  Putting whole fish in your cooler will result in a stronger fish taste, which isn’t very pleasant.

As you’ll see in this photo from a few years ago, when you net fish in the personal use fishery, you need to cut off the tail fins to identify them.  That is a requirement by Fish & Game.  For more information, make sure to consult the fishing regs before you head out.

Be safe, and have fun on the water!

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