The raindrops and red salmon were intermittent Wednesday as setnetters on the east side of the Cook Inlet fished a 12-hour opener — the first of the season for the Kenai and East Forelands section of the fishery.
The commercial gillnet fishers were primarily put into the water to nab red, or sockeye, salmon headed into the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. Managers of both rivers are seeing large passages, with the Kasilof hitting the 195,000 mark by Monday and 110,000 making it into the Kenai.
Several rain-gear and fish-slime clad fishers on the beach near Cannery Road in Kenai said things had been slow — though flounder seemed to be abundant.
Devin Every and Damien Redder tossed at least five flounder from their boat as they picked the Every family’s nets just before high tide at about 3 p.m.
Despite a slow day of harvest, energy was high and bursts of laughter punctuated the steady patter of raindrops as crew members hit each other with fish, while steadily filling large, plastic totes that dotted the beach in front of each setnet operation.
“It could have been better,” said Landon Taylor whose family’s operation is just south of the Kenai River. They fish primarily outer nets, or those that don’t touch the beach, he said. “But, the wind that’s supposed to come up tomorrow makes our fishing worse and opening tomorrow would have been bad.”
At the Every’s sites, several children huddled in a trailer playing games and coloring while their parents and older siblings worked.
Amber Every drove a tractor up and down the beach with her mother-in-law and sister close behind in a beat-up white pickup truck as they patrolled the family’s nets from shore. The three took a short break to run up to camp, piling into the pickup truck and barrelling up the steep, sandy hill leading away from their sites. They left an audible trail of shouting and laughter behind.
“It’s good to see smiles on their faces,” said Margie “Nanny” Anderson, Amber Every’s mother. “They needed to get out (and fish) and were wondering if they were going to get to fish.”
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.