The season is upon us... so once again it's time to share photos of the only-in-Alaska tradition of dipnetting. We went to Chitina again; this time we were well prepared and showed up with bikes AND trailers, a campstove. And coffee.
However... for all the preparation dipnetting was once again a "world of pain". We had 2 bikes and 2 bike-trailers. Yvonne hiked, Todd and I biked. It took us 23 hours to get 50 reds and 2 kings; we each biked over 20 miles and each hauled over 100lbs. I took an early light run of 5 fish when the fishing was slow, Yvonne biked out one load of 16 fish when the fishing was hot and Todd took out a load of 17 when the fishing was hot. And finally, at 7 am we hauled everything that was left back to the car. It was brutal!
We began by biking in 5 miles and finding the same spot where we had good luck last year. We dropped our nets in the water and began the wait... And a long wait it was: we started fishing around 10am and at 11pm had only caught 10 fish between three people. It was slick (we were roped in), exposed and windy. We froze.
Finally I grew impatient and opted to go look for other fishing options. I hiked downriver and found the same ledge we had fished 3 years ago. I tentatively dropped my net in the water and within a minute I had a fish. 2 minutes later I had another fish. And 10 minutes after that a third! I waved to Todd and he and Yvonne moved our stuff over.
I caught 5 fish within 30 minutes and over the next 8 hours (from 11pm - 6am) we hauled in 27 more from this spot. The slaughter was good and things were picking up so Yvonne carried a load of 15 reds and 1 king out on the bike. The trailer weighed a good 30+ pounds.
At midnight Todd and I brewed up a pot of coffee. Things got weird for a while until it started to get light again at 2am.
We fished until 6 am and finally stopped when we reached 50 reds. We then loaded up our ridiculously laden bikes and headed back to the truck.
Back home we cleaned up all the fillets and packaged the fish. Or front-yard assembly line consisted of Todd and I cleaning the fillets while Lauren and Yvonne rinsed, bagged and sealed.
The end result... a full freezer 36 hours after starting our fishing extravaganza!
There is a currently a pending lawsuit where a commercial fisherman from Cordova has filed suit in federal district court to eliminate all personal use fisheries in Alaska, especially the personal use dipnet fishery at Chitina. You can read more about the lawsuit here.
The Chitina Dipnetters Association and the Alaska Outdoors Council are currently fighting this case. I'd like to support either of these groups - but the truth is - the Alaska Outdoors Council spend gobs of money fighting non-motorized users around the state. Likewise the Chitina Dipnetters Association seems hell-bent on appropriating state funds to restore the Chinita Road to a condition where you can drive your F150 down and drink beer while fishing. So as much as I'd like to say support these groups and this cause - I just can't do it.
As for whom to support if you feel strongly about this - Alaska Outdoors Council does have a Chitina only fund you can donate to... so if you must bite the bullet and demand that your money be spent only on the court case and not on some court case where they're trying to open the last vestiges of wild land to motorized access.
That said here's what you can do without having to contribute money to the AOC: Write!! Write your legislator and tell him or her to support the Alaska personal use fishery. You voted for them... so tell them how you feel!
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