Cyprus Dunyon put his head in the sand, pushed hard with his toes and tumbled head over heels toward the mouth of the Kasilof River.
With each tumble, his feet slid closer to the shoreline where a nest of camp chairs and coolers sat waiting for the more than 150 people standing in the water, their dipnets extended into the surf.
Further up the beach, setnet boats mingled with drift fishing boats as commercial fishermen took advantage of a special harvest area at the mouth of the Kasilof River aimed at cutting off a red salmon run that is projected to exceed the river’s optimum escapement goal.
Cyprus, 3, was soon called back up to his family’s campsite on the beach where string of ornate sandcastles indicated the slow day of fishing better than any empty coolers or motionless fishermen ever could.
Cyprus, his four siblings and two cousins came to the Kasilof personal use dipnet fishery from Palmer to enjoy what Ryan Dunyon — Cyprus’s father — said was a cleaner, nicer beach than the one at the mouth of the Kenai River.
“It’s (more fun) here for the kids to get in the sand and it gives them something to do,” Ryan said. “It’s still plenty crowded here, this is just where we started (dipnetting).”
When the fish are hitting hard, Ryan said the kids have more to do.
“They like to see the fish come in and they like to see them flip and they want to poke them with a stick,” he said.
While the beach many be nicer, Ryan said it still gets “plenty crowded” but typically with more people who are from the Kenai Peninsula.
“I recognize a lot of locals that look like they’re not coming very far because they’re on four-wheelers,” Ryan said.
Nick Abraham and his father, also named Nick Abraham, agreed that the Kasilof dipnet fishery — which typically gets smaller red salmon than the Kenai River does according to Alaska Department of Fish and game records — is typically fished by locals.
“It’s more than just local as in ‘Alaskan,’ but local being Soldotna and Homer,” the younger Abraham said.
He said the Abraham family, of Soldotna, has been netting salmon in the waters of the Kasilof for ten years.
“We went to Kenai once and didn’t love it, a little too busy,” he said.
As of noon Wednesday, more than 21,000 red salmon had been counted in the Kasilof River but several personal use fishermen said they were not catching as many as they had in previous days.
Still, even with the commercial fishermen mopping up the excess reds in the mouth of the river, many said their harvests were still fair.
“I guess the run is pretty good this year,” Ryan said.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.