Personal dip netting on the Kenai River opens on or around the 10th of July each year. Imagine coming home from fishing and you have more then 100 fish to clean. You have two choices basically to preserve your fish, canning them or freezing them. If you fish all day, do you still have the strength to stay up and clean fish for several hours more? Do you understand just how fast fish start to deteriorate after they die? The fresher the fish are when you process them the better they taste once you finally put them on the table. Canning fish does not make them fresher, it only preserves them at the state they were when you put them in the jar providing you actually canned them right away. If you put fish in a jar and still don't run them through the canner they continue to deteriorate until they are canned. I have made several changes to my fish processing since arriving here in Alaska 11 years ago. Number one, I prefer dip netting from a boat rather then from shore. I like to scoop my fish up and put them right in my boat rather then drag them through the sand and mud at the beach. I also used to club them to prevent them from flopping around spraying sand and water in face. I no longer club my fish either as I found that it kills them instantly and prevents them from bleeding out properly. I also found that if you miss the head that it causes bruises to the fish or blood shot meat. If you tear out a gill the fish bleeds out normally and you end up with a lot better fish to put on the table. Another mistake a lot of people make each year is they haul their fish home in a black garbage bag. Black draws in the heat and the hotter it is outside the more heat the black plastic bag draws in and the softer the fish becomes. A simply rule to follow in your home is this DO NOT USE GARBAGE BAGS FOR ANYTHING EXCEPT TRASH. Most garbage bags are not made from food grade material and to the best of my knowledge are made from oil waste. Another important thing I like to do is put my fish on ice as soon as I catch them. Even if you’re fishing trout, put them in a cooler of ice immediately rather then let them flop around in the bottom of your boat absorbing heat. Fish clean so much better ice cold then when they are soft and mushy. If you’re not prepared for the big salmon harvest yet, start doing so now. Start planning on making changes in your operation so that you can put a better product not only in your freezer or jars but also on the table too. Make your salmon harvest a family process this year, where everyone in your family takes part and has a job to do in getting these fish put away in a timely and efficient manner. I have been on jobs where someone would bring in a jar of canned fish and once they opened it they cleared out the room. The fish stunk so bad eating it never entered into your mind. Getting away from that nasty aroma was the immediate response of most people and the emergency escape that most took. I have always said if you put garbage in a jar you’re darn sure going to take garbage back out again. Most families could not eat all the salmon that they are allowed to legally dip net each year. I feel this is a great area for you to get a few extra fish for that elderly couple in your neighborhood or from your church. Clean these fish and give them to these people ready to eat. Be a good neighbor and help out those elderly or less fortunate people that you know. I have said it many times, you are not giving any one a gift, especially our elderly, if your so called gift creates work for them. Take the time required to clean it for them first, then you are really doing something nice for them. This year think of new ways that you can come up with to improve your salmon harvest, and allow you to put a better product on your table than in previous years. Plan ahead and find out new and better ways to help preserve your catch till it ends up on the table. Dip netters at the mouth of the Kenai have gotten a very bad name the past few years for the stinking rotten mess they create and the trash they leave behind each year. Do your part and report these slobs that leave their trash behind or clean their fish 100 yards from the high water mark. I find it disgusting myself after the first week of dip netting and have always been a strong advocate of everyone participating in the dip netting program being required to wear a back tag number. That way we could simply write down the back tag number and report these people who abuse the program and hopefully eliminate them without having to risk a fist fight confronting a few of these people. Remember the old wilderness rule, IF YOU PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT! See you next week
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