for the love of salmon

Last week/weekend I headed down to Kenai with some friends to go dip netting.  We headed out late in the afternoon on Thursday.  The goal was to fish mostly on Friday so we could beat the weekend rush. 

As always, the drive was gorgeous.

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Unfortunately, it started raining when we got near Soldotna.  Not a good sign.  We stopped for dinner at the St. Elias Brewing Co. and then headed to the river.  The plan was to park, sleep, and get up and fish in the morning.  When we got to the parking lot around 9pm, we learned that parking was from midnight to midnight or noon to noon, so rather than pay for parking until noon the next day and then pay again, we decided to hang out somewhere else (the Safeway parking lot) until midnight and then pay for parking for the whole next day.  

We were all very tired and had a hard time staying awake.  Finally midnight rolled around and we parked and went to sleep.  I had a cozy bed in the back of my car (foam pad + sheet + sleeping bag = cozy bed).  I actually slept better in my car than I have in my bed at home in months!  

Friday morning we got up around 6, had some breakfast and coffee and begrudgingly got dressed for fishing in the rain.  It wasn't raining hard, but it was breezy which made things worse.  We hauled our things down to the beach and got started.  There was much discussion about how ridiculous dip netting is.  Basically you are standing around in chest deep water holding a net and waiting for a fish to accidentally swim into your net.  It's cold and a lot of work, but that doesn't stop us crazy Alaskans from doing it year after year.  

I got six fish on Friday.  We fished all day but took several warm up/dry out breaks, so I felt pretty good about how things were going.  

At one point I was so cold I had to get in my car and turn the heat up to full blast.  Of course I enjoyed some cashew clusters and dark chocolate while I warmed up...

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Around 6pm, it started clearing up.  We ended up quitting around 8pm due to the fact that we were tired, still cold, and kind of soggy.  I had no intention of fishing on Saturday and threw all my wet stuff into a garbage back to deal with when I got home.  

We ate dinner and headed to the place where our other friends were camping and where we were planning on spending the night.  We got there late, around 11pm, visited for awhile and then headed to bed.  

Saturday morning the weather was gorgeous...and I got talked into staying and fishing ("let's just see how the fishing is...") another day.  

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The parking lot was slightly more crowded than the day before, but the beach was pretty empty for a weekend.  The fishing was still pretty slow, but appeared to be slightly better than Friday). Since the weather was amazing, it didn't really matter.

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I ended up getting four more fish.  Despite the fact that the weather was better, I think I worked harder for those four than I did for the six I got the previous day.  The fishing was good when the tide was out, so the walk out of the water was longer.  For those of you who are not familiar with dip netting, you have a 5 foot wide round net with a really long handle (5+ feet).  You stand in the water with the net on its edge and wait for a fish.  When a fish hits, you turn your net and back out of the water and drag it up onto the beach, then you untangle it, bonk it, and do it all again.  Here's a video I found to illustrate this process.  

So I had the extension on my net making the pole 10 or 12 feet long, plus the extra long walk out of the water...it was a challenge and there was A LOT of swearing!  JRW said he was sorry he missed that part.  

Photo Jul 28, 1 43 29 PMI had planned to drive home on Saturday evening after fishing (since I wasn't planning on staying at all on Saturday in the first place), but ended up staying the night because it got late and I got tired and driving home didn't seem like a safe/smart idea.  

Photo Jul 26, 10 51 15 PMWhile everyone else filleted their fish, I stood around and got bitten by mosquitoes.  I had no energy or muscle control to fillet fish.  I figured I would probably lose a finger, so I opted to take mine home and deal with it the next day.  

Yes...we used our ski waxing bench as a fillet table...

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JRW filleted while I vacuum packed.  

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I also defrosted and brined fish from last year so I could smoke it.  That batch of fish is currently in the smoker while all the new fish is happily in the freezer!  I also have some fish to can and some to pickle.  Maybe I'll be done processing fish in time to go fishing again next year... #AKprobs.