Dipnetting began on the Kenai River this past weekend, and while both crowds and catch rates were down for the opener, those that did wet a net weren't disappointed.
"It's still a bit early, but there are fish coming in. I heard yesterday was a little better than today, and while today isn't anything to write home about, it was worth the drive down," said Jason Uhley, of Anchorage, on Sunday.
Uhley said he had pulled in a half dozen fish on the morning flood tide, and some other fishermen did even better.
"I got here at 7 a.m. and the water was pretty choppy. I didn't catch anything until around 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.," said Homer resident Therese Lewandowski.
She said around mid-morning is when the tide -- and her luck -- began to change.
"Then I got three or four pretty quickly and continued to pick up fish steadily until now. I ended up with 10 to take home, using only one net," she said around mid-day.
John and Amanda Meising, of Wasilla, said they were glad to have made the trip down on Sunday morning.
"Since it opened Friday, we thought we would let all the lookie loos have their go at it, then we could come down today and have it not be so crowded," John said. "Compared to last year, this opening weekend is dead."
Being "dead" is a relative term on the Kenai River, though. While there weren't thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder, there were still dozens of dipnetters on both sides of the river mouth, as well as further up at the Warren Ames Memorial Bridge and numerous boats between the two locations.
Despite the other fishermen, the Meisings said they were able to eke out some meat for the freezer.
"We did better than last year," John said. " Last year we spent a day and half here and only got nine fish. This year, I've already got 12 and I'm still looking forward to this evening's tide and fishing tomorrow."
While it ended well, like many others on Sunday, John said his day started slow, too.
"From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. I didn't get a thing, but from about 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., that's when I got them all, one after another," he said.
The spotty fishing isn't really a surprise when Alaska Department of Fish and Game escapement estimates for the Kenai River are taken into consideration. Daily counts have been averaging around 4,000 to 5,000 sockeye, with Saturday having the largest daily total this season when 7,836 fish came through, for a cumulative 53,644 fish so far since counting began on July 1.
However, as July progresses, more fish should begin to enter the Kenai, and based on past years, it would not be uncommon for 50,000 to 60,000 fish to enter the river in a single day over the remainder of the month.
This leaves plenty of fishing days before the dipnet fishery closes on July 31. Until then, fishing on the Kenai River is allowed between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. This is an Alaskan resident fishery only and all dipnetters are required to carry a resident fishing license and a permit with them.
For more information on this fishery, consult the 2009 Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations Summary for Southcentral Alaska or call Fish and Game at 262-9368.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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