Wiley Snell of Kenai waits patiently for a salmon to swim into his net while dip netting in the Kasilof River last week. With the opening of the Kenai River dip net fishery on Sunday, many personal use salmon fishers are now turning their attention to the larger Kenai sockeye run.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
With the Kenai River dip net fishery now open, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is hoping personal use fishers remember to follow the regulations.
"I think most people have a clear idea of how it works, but there are a few things some people stumble over," said Tim McKinley, a fisheries biologist with Fish and Game.
McKinley said most people understand that this fishery is for Alaska residents only tourists will have to stick to the rod and reel for bringing home meat for the freezer.
"People participating in the dip net fishery must also have a valid sport fishing license and a personal use permit, and have both on them," McKinley said.
Permits can be obtained from numerous vendors, a full list of which can be found online at: www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/region2/areas/kenai/cipusalmonvend.cfm.
"There's also a bit of confusion over how to correctly record the harvest," McKinley said.
He advised that after getting a fish in the net, landing it and bonking it on the head, the fish should then immediately have both tips of the tail fin removed before concealing the salmon from plain view or transporting the salmon from the fishing site.
"Some people will use knives, but I prefer to use heavy duty scissors to clip the fins. They're safe and easy to use," McKinley said.
All fish harvested for the permit holders that's 25 salmon and 10 flounder, plus 10 salmon for each additional household member must then be immediately recorded on the permit in ink.
Also one king salmon may be retained from the Kenai River dip net fishery.
McKinley also said he's hopeful people will try to keep the beaches as clean as possible.
"People should responsibly dispose of their fish carcasses," McKinley said.
This means returning fish waste back to the fast-moving waters of the river. Leaving them in the shallows at high tide will, when the tide goes out, leave them on shore where they will begin to quickly decompose and stink. There is also no cleaning fish or cutting of tails in the parking lot, on any float, or at the Kenai Boating Facility.
Fish waste should not be thrown in the dumpsters provided by the City of Kenai. These are trash-only dumpsters that, along with the portable restrooms, are for fishers' convenience. They are serviced daily, but have a limited capacity.
"People should pack out what them pack in," McKinley said.
Fishers should also take note that, unlike the Kasilof River dip net fishery which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week until August 7, the Kenai River dip net fishery is only open between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. through July 31.
To access the Kenai's north shore, the city of Kenai has provided a large parking area at the end of South Spruce Street. A $10 fee allows dip netters to park for 12 hours in a 24-hour period.
Alaska Avenue, near the parking area, is for loading and unloading gear and passengers only. Also, since this road is narrow, RV access is not recommended.
A section of the Kenai River's north shore is closed to dipnetting from shore. This area extends from a Fish and Game marker below the terminus of Main Street to Fish and Game markers near the Kenai City Dock.
This area has unstable bluff conditions and is known for treacherous intertidal mud.
Dip netters interested in accessing the Kenai River's south shore should follow Cannery Road, then follow signs to access the beach via Dunes Road. From there, fishers can walk or drive the remaining distance below the high tide mark.
There is a $10 fee at this location as well.
The city of Kenai will again, for the third year in a row, be providing informational pamphlets on the Kenai River dip net fishery.
"It's good info to have," said Bob Frates, Kenai Parks and Recreation Department Director.
Frates said these pamphlets include information on the dip net fishery, including a brief history, environmental and social impacts, fees and fee stations, rules and regulations, directions, maps, a tide table and emergency contact phone numbers.
"We want to educate the public and this helps us in our efforts," Frates said.
The pamphlets are available at numerous locations, including the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, the Kenai Library, the Kenai Recreation Center and at the fee collection stations.
Dipping was reported to be slow Sunday on the season's first day.
Anchorage resident Fred Cousens was one of the lucky ones Sunday afternoon. Al-though fishing at low tide, Cousens managed to pull a sockeye from the river's mouth. He said the fishing was better early in the morning around the high tide.
"I didn't catch as many as a lot of people did," Cousens said, pointing to the few fish he had in his cooler.
Sam Blanks of Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage said he did well on the morning tide.
"I got here at about 6 a.m. (when the fishery opened) and it was very fast at that time," he said. "I was catching one about every two minutes for a while."
Both Blanks and Cousens said they planned to fish the afternoon tide and then leave the beach.
"I'm gonna stay and fish the incoming tide," Cousens said. "Then I'm going to try the Kasilof."
Clarion reporter Matt Tunseth contributed to this story.
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