Dipnets poised for opener

Posted: Friday, July 07, 2000

There's a time for spending a day at the Russian River, enjoying the nuance of trying to latch a sockeye onto a fly.

And there's a time for floating the Kenai River, living the anticipation of having that giant and playful king strike your tackle.

But, as work and other obligations of the quick Alaska summer cut into opportunities to put fish in the freezer, there's also a time to take the sport out of sport fishing and pull out the dipnet.

"I love to sport fish," said Larry Marsh, an assistant area management biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Soldotna. "I probably only get out on the river three days a year to do rod-and-reel fishing.

"For me to get as many fish as I want for smoking, canning and freezing, I'll spend a couple days dipnetting."

Monday, the personal use salmon fisheries open at the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. The annual opportunity for Alaska residents to stock their freezers with red salmon runs until July 31 at the Kenai and August 5 at the Kasilof.

Barring any closures, fishing can be done 24 hours per day, seven days per week. A permit, which is free of charge, is required, and the total yearly harvest is 25 salmon for the permit holder and 10 salmon for each additional household member.

Like any other kind of fishing, dipnetting requires some equipment. Naturally, things start with the dipnet itself -- an instrument with varied forms that are a testament to the creativity and problem-solving nature of Alaskans.

Marsh, who has lived on the peninsula since 1978 and has dipnetted for more than 10 years, said he has seen an endless variety of contraptions designed to trap fish.

However, good dipnets have certain things in common.

"You want a light dipnet -- as light as possible, yet strong," Marsh said. "Some of the boat builders, aluminum welders and fabricators at machine shops make some dipnets that are very good."

There also is the option of crafting one's own dipnet. Marsh made his by wrapping electrical conduit around a 500-gallon, home-heating fuel drum, then welding a 10-foot handle to the hoop.

Do-it-yourselfers should take a good look at the Fish and Game regulations on the size of a dipnet and ask around at hardware stores and net shops for advice.

For those dipping from shore, Marsh said chest waders are a must.

"I wouldn't do it in hip boots," Marsh said. "I get wet in chest waders, so you're going to get really wet in hip boots."

Marsh said he has had the most luck at the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof when the tide is flooding in, and after high tide once the current of the river again establishes itself.

"I've never had much luck at high slack," Marsh said. "It seems to be best when there's a current."

Marsh said he does his best fishing with his net at the bottom of the river. Calling sockeye "real shore huggers," he also said he finds most of his fish 10 to 15 feet from the water's edge.

Some venture farther out into the water because they figure they'll never catch anything standing in a long line of nets. Marsh said this ignores the manner in which reds school.

"Schooling fish don't all travel in a straight line, one behind the other," Marsh said. "They travel on the side of one another as well."

What's more, strapping on a life vest and dry suit -- or some similar get-up -- and venturing far out from shore can be dangerous due to the tides, the current and all the boats motoring about making wakes.

"People have drifted off shore and they've had to be rescued," Marsh said.

Actually landing a fish involves waiting for a bobbing and jerking in the net, then turning the net to one side or the other to bag up the fish.

"The curious thing is the fish can travel into the net from both sides," Marsh said. "You have to figure out which side and turn the net so it bags the fish in the direction of travel."

Once the fish is netted, the work has just begun. The fish must be cleaned, and this leads to dipnetting being a social and family event where division of labor is prized.

Other details that must be attended to before leaving the fishing site or concealing the fish from view is cutting off both lobes of the tail fin and recording the number of fish harvested on the permit.

Marsh said there have been problems with people adhering to those regulations in the past.

"One of the clearest problems is that the sport fish limit is only six fish," Marsh said. "If people have more than six fish in their possession, and they haven't clipped the tail fin, they can be cited."

Finally, dipnetting, whether on shore or in a boat, calls for common sense and courtesy. Marsh said netters at the Kenai and Kasilof should stay off the fragile vegetation of the sand dunes.

Boaters should be aware that they are in a busy area and everybody should be aware how quickly hundreds of people can trash an area by each doing just the smallest bit of littering.

Beyond that, happy freezer filling.

HEAD:Dipnets poised for opener

BYLINE1:By JEFF HELMINIAK

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

There's a time for spending a day at the Russian River, enjoying the nuance of trying to latch a sockeye onto a fly.

And there's a time for floating the Kenai River, living the anticipation of having that giant and playful king strike your tackle.

But, as work and other obligations of the quick Alaska summer cut into opportunities to put fish in the freezer, there's also a time to take the sport out of sport fishing and pull out the dipnet.

"I love to sport fish," said Larry Marsh, an assistant area management biologist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Soldotna. "I probably only get out on the river three days a year to do rod-and-reel fishing.

"For me to get as many fish as I want for smoking, canning and freezing, I'll spend a couple days dipnetting."

Monday, the personal use salmon fisheries open at the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. The annual opportunity for Alaska residents to stock their freezers with red salmon runs until July 31 at the Kenai and August 5 at the Kasilof.

Barring any closures, fishing can be done 24 hours per day, seven days per week. A permit, which is free of charge, is required, and the total yearly harvest is 25 salmon for the permit holder and 10 salmon for each additional household member.

Like any other kind of fishing, dipnetting requires some equipment. Naturally, things start with the dipnet itself -- an instrument with varied forms that are a testament to the creativity and problem-solving nature of Alaskans.

Marsh, who has lived on the peninsula since 1978 and has dipnetted for more than 10 years, said he has seen an endless variety of contraptions designed to trap fish.

However, good dipnets have certain things in common.

"You want a light dipnet -- as light as possible, yet strong," Marsh said. "Some of the boat builders, aluminum welders and fabricators at machine shops make some dipnets that are very good."

There also is the option of crafting one's own dipnet. Marsh made his by wrapping electrical conduit around a 500-gallon, home-heating fuel drum, then welding a 10-foot handle to the hoop.

Do-it-yourselfers should take a good look at the Fish and Game regulations on the size of a dipnet and ask around at hardware stores and net shops for advice.

For those dipping from shore, Marsh said chest waders are a must.

"I wouldn't do it in hip boots," Marsh said. "I get wet in chest waders, so you're going to get really wet in hip boots."

Marsh said he has had the most luck at the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof when the tide is flooding in, and after high tide once the current of the river again establishes itself.

"I've never had much luck at high slack," Marsh said. "It seems to be best when there's a current."

Marsh said he does his best fishing with his net at the bottom of the river. Calling sockeye "real shore huggers," he also said he finds most of his fish 10 to 15 feet from the water's edge.

Some venture farther out into the water because they figure they'll never catch anything standing in a long line of nets. Marsh said this ignores the manner in which reds school.

"Schooling fish don't all travel in a straight line, one behind the other," Marsh said. "They travel on the side of one another as well."

What's more, strapping on a life vest and dry suit -- or some similar get-up -- and venturing far out from shore can be dangerous due to the tides, the current and all the boats motoring about making wakes.

"People have drifted off shore and they've had to be rescued," Marsh said.

Actually landing a fish involves waiting for a bobbing and jerking in the net, then turning the net to one side or the other to bag up the fish.

"The curious thing is the fish can travel into the net from both sides," Marsh said. "You have to figure out which side and turn the net so it bags the fish in the direction of travel."

Once the fish is netted, the work has just begun. The fish must be cleaned, and this leads to dipnetting being a social and family event where division of labor is prized.

Other details that must be attended to before leaving the fishing site or concealing the fish from view is cutting off both lobes of the tail fin and recording the number of fish harvested on the permit.

Marsh said there have been problems with people adhering to those regulations in the past.

"One of the clearest problems is that the sport fish limit is only six fish," Marsh said. "If people have more than six fish in their possession, and they haven't clipped the tail fin, they can be cited."

Finally, dipnetting, whether on shore or in a boat, calls for common sense and courtesy. Marsh said netters at the Kenai and Kasilof should stay off the fragile vegetation of the sand dunes.

Boaters should be aware that they are in a busy area and everybody should be aware how quickly hundreds of people can trash an area by each doing just the smallest bit of littering.

Beyond that, happy freezer filling.



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