The landscape at the confluence of the Kasilof River looked like a scene out of Mad Max or some other post apocalyptic Hollywood flick this weekend, which can mean only one thing dipnetting season has begun.
An enclave of people were hauling fish and gear to and fro on ATVs caked in mud. Their living quarters, a temporary town of pop-up tents, were snapping in the strong wind. All the while, the dipnetters were contending with enough screeching gulls to break any Guinness book record.
However, spirits remained high along the crowded shores of the river bank.
"Oh, it's been great," said Sheila Tadina, who was down from Anchorage with family for the holiday weekend. Tadina and three others in her party caught a total of 22 fish, mostly red salmon, with a few pinks finding their way into the net.
"We come here every year at this time," she said.
Tadina said she likes that the Kasilof is open to dipnetting early, compared to the Kenai which doesn't open until Thursday.
However, the fishery's earlier opening isn't the Kasilof's only draw.
"It's not as packed with people as the Kenai, too," Tadina said.
Although the shore of the Kasilof can get elbow to elbow with anglers from roughly an hour before to an hour after high or low tide, in between these times things really thin out.
Tammy Cobb and her husband, Gary, were a couple of first timers dipnetting the Kasilof to avoid the crowds on the Kenai.
"This is our second year here, but our first as 'residents,' so we thought we would give it a try," said Cobb. "We wanted to see what it's all about and it's been fun."
Katie Bergeron from New York is on vacation visiting family and friends who live in Anchorage. As a nonresident she can't dip herself, but decided to tag along with those who could.
"They love dipnetting and said I should come to 'experience' Alaska," she said while watching her companions dip from a boat in the river, rather than from shore like many of the other people.
"I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would," she said. "They're doing good, too. They've already got about 25 fish and seem to be getting one or two with every pass."
Brian Marlin and his wife, Krissy, were equally successful at nabbing reds and even an occasional Dolly Varden.
He said although they are usually busy building a log home in Kasilof, they fish whenever they can. With weather as good as it was this past weekend, they donned the wadders and broke out the nets.
"It's been off and on, but with time and persistence, it'll pay off," said Marlin. "We've only got a few so far, but we'll keep going until we get 35, or the season ends."
For her part, Krissy Marlin was enjoying herself, but said the success of netting salmon isn't as great as hooking into one the feisty fish.
"Netting them is fun, but it's just not as sporting as catching them with a line," she said.
The Kasilof dipnet fishery opened June 25 and runs until Aug. 7. Fishing is allowed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and fish may be taken from the bank or from a boat.
The open area is from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game markers posted on Cook Inlet outside of the mouth of the river, to about one mile upstream to markers.
No retention of king salmon is allowed in the Kasilof dipnet fishery.
For those willing to wait, the Kenai River dipnet fishery opens Thursday and runs to July 31. Fishing is allowed only between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
The Kenai open area from shore is from the commercial fishing markers located in Cook Inlet north and south of the river mouth, upstream to the downstream edge of the Warren Ames Memorial Bridge, except for a section of the north shore from a Fish and Game marker below the terminus of Main Street to Fish and Game markers near the Kenai City Dock.
The Kenai open area for boats is from Fish and Game markers near the Kenai City Dock upstream to the downstream edge of the Warren Ames Bridge.
Only one king salmon may be retained from the Kenai River dipnet fishery.
For more information, consult the 2003 sport fishing regulations summary for Southcentral Alaska or call the Fish and Game office in Soldotna at 262-9368.
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