Kevin Feller wanted to get in and get his fish for the season before the beach got too crowded with out-of-towners.
So the Nikiski man and his wife Jan Feller spent five hours on the North beach catching the 12 fish they catch every season and will duck out before the weekend crowds descend on Kenai.
Saturday will be the first weekend day of the dipnet season, one several of the nearly 100 beach-goers dotting the shoreline Friday said would be far busier and an indicator of how the rest of the season would run.
Mike Dennison, of Wasilla, planned to fish again on Saturday with both his son and father-in-law while his wife spends her weekend at a dog show.
“We do it every year,” he said. “Probably at least four years solid now. She’s been coming down here (to the dog show) for years but I just got into dipnetting really heavy.”
Dennison said he has also dipnetted on the Copper River.
On Friday, Dennison sat relaxing in a lawn chair watching his father-in-law hold a square net in the water.
“I caught four and my father-in-law caught one,” he said.
He said he’d like to fish for a few more days, but his wife will make him help her pack up a trailer after the dog show so he wasn’t sure he’d fish anymore after Friday.
Dennison said he didn’t think he’d catch his limit over the weekend.
“If the run was absolutely excellent and you stayed here all day long, but frankly we’ve only been here about three hours so far and probably won’t spend another hour here. Maybe we’ll do quite a bit tomorrow, but that’s not that many hours of fishing so we won’t max out,” he said. “It’s just the right amount of fish that we could have on the table for the winter.”
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game 10,548 sockeye were counted by their instream DIDSON Friday for a cumulative season total of 88,518 — far higher than last year when just over 54,000 sockeye were counted in river by the same date.
Several people stood on the beach Friday afternoon waiting to haul a fish in. While some caught one or two, others stood for longer before giving up and coming in to rest.
Jan stood at a makeshift ironing board gutting a sockeye that Kevin caught — one they estimated was a five-year-old based on size. As she slid a knife into its belly a large group stopped, several taking pictures, and peppered her with questions.
John Fezell, of Alabama said he and his wife have been in Alaska for several weeks and were on the bluff looking at a church when they saw the crowd on the beach and wandering down to see what was going on.
Fezell said he does a fair amount of line fishing, mostly for bass, but was used to catching much smaller fish.
Jan explained that the fish on her table was a fair size, but not large.
Fezell was quick to point out that it was a big fish to anyone in the lower 48.
“It’s just remarkable. I’ve heard of dipnetting but I’ve never seen it done,” Fezell said. “I’m impressed.”
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.