Dipnetting 2017: The Year With Less Fish

Dipnetting 2017: The Year With Less Fish

Our annual dipnetting trip this year was out of the ordinary. First off, the fish weren’t there. Usually the fish come in droves around July 15-17. We went down on July 17-18 and the fish still weren’t there. Here’s a graph comparing this year’s sockeye salmon run numbers throughout July and August (the red line) and last year’s numbers (the black line). See that big spike in the black line where it dips in the red? Yeah. That’s ย when we went fishing. It got so weird that they even talked about shutting down dipnetting for awhile to let more salmon get up the river, and the counts finally rose a week later only when they shut down the commercial fishery for a few days.

Fish Counts

Despite the lack of fish in the river, we actually did quite well. We caught 21 salmon and they were pretty big this year. (I only caught 1 and Mr. T caught 20… but his net is significantly longer, so he was the only one in our group that actually managed to catch any fish.)

As we camped on the beach, the rain came in full swing and Lui woke up around 3AM crying: “It’s raining on me.” Then we realized our tent was soaking wet and absolutely raining all over from the ceiling (what the heck… seriously!?). So when we got home, our house was covered in all of our stuff drying out (camping chairs, pads, sleeping bags, pillows, tents, etc.). But we lived to tell the tale and had a pretty great time anyway!

Dipnetting: The Numbers

The Costs:

  • $10 – Dropoff fee. You have to pay to unload your car right by the beach. It’s still cheaper than the $55 fee to overnight park. We unload, park a mile away for free and then ride an old bike back.
  • $25 – Camping fee for 1 night.
  • $58 – 2 fishing licenses for Mr. T and I.
  • $41.98 – FoodSaver bags for freezing the fillets.
  • $19.74 – Ice to keep the fish cool.
  • $59.40 – The charge to professionally smoke 10.8 lbs of salmon (nearly 8 lbs left over from last year’s catch from the freezer).
  • $40 – Gas for the trip there and back.

TOTAL: $254.12

Our 21 salmon totaled 1,058 oz or 66 lbs 2 oz. – That means our total price per pound this year was $3.84/lb. We’ve certainly done better (compare dipnetting 2015 and dipnetting 2016), but again, we did pretty good for the circumstances and we’re definitely happy with our haul.

Our smallest fillet was 12 oz and our largest was a whopping 42 oz!

Despite the circumstances, dipnetting is still my absolutely favorite. It’s such a great communal experience. One guy caught a gigantic King salmon in his net (like the size of Lui) and the whole beach erupted in cheering when he pulled it out. When I hadn’t caught anything for like an hour and finally caught my one fish, many strangers cheered as well because they noticed I hadn’t caught. It’s so great.

Every year when I’m dipnetting, I think: “I’m never leaving Alaska. This is the greatest place ever” and I get to remember that feeling weekly when we eat a salmon fillet for dinner.

How does $3.84/lb compare to what you pay for salmon?


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  1. Here in Charlotte, farm raised salmon is $8.99/lb. Wild salmon is $19.99/lb. Never heard of dipnetting before, but I love it. And I love the community spirit. I would have cheered you too, Maggie, when you hauled in your first fish. Thanks for sharing. Your neck of Alaska does look like heaven on earth.

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh it’s amazing. Honestly dipnetting is my favorite. And I would miss it most if we ever moved.

  2. The only time I eat salmon is in sushi, but this sounds like a bargain compared to the prices I’ve seen for not-fresh fish here. Plus, I’m not sure you can put a price on that experience!

  3. That sounds fun (except for the wet tent part)! I love salmon and wild caught salmon is so expensive, so I’m sure your way is the cheaper route despite some of the expenses to actually do it. I think the experience is also worth it!

  4. TheRetirementManifesto

    You’re so lucky to live where you do! Good for you for taking advantage of your natural resources there. While you may have had a “dripping” tent, smile when you realize all of us in the Lower 48 are “dripping” with envy!

    • MaggieBanks

      Oh we’ll happily take the rainy night for our delicious salmon! Despite the circumstances I super love love love dipnetting!

  5. What an adventure! I love that this is a part of your annual lives.

    We pay more like $10 a pound for salmon so it’s no surprise we haven’t had any for a long while! Now you’ve got me craving it again ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Chris @ Keep Thrifty

    That sounds like such a fun experience – something you really won’t get many other places in the world!

    Thanks for sharing with us – I’d honestly never heard of this – really cool to learn about it!

  7. Adriane

    Gah! It makes me want to go dipnetting. I’ve never been but I’m excited to start. My parents always put about 20 filets up for me when they do theirs on the Kvichak. They won’t be going out anymore so I’m begging them for us to go dipnetting next summer. Bummer that you didn’t get the typical haul, but you still came out pretty well and you cant put a price on that experience.

    Wonderful to read a fellow Alaskan!!!

    • MaggieBanks

      Dipnetting is definitely one of my very favorite perks of being Alaskan! My kids always ask: “Why don’t they let just anyone come up and dipnet?” and I always have to say: “Because EVERYONE would!” Welcome to our little corner of the internet fellow Alaskan!

  8. This makes me so jealous of all that fresh fish! It’s certainly not something we can get at a reasonable price here on the prairies. My boyfriend has family out on Vancouver Island and we usually get a few salmon from them every year but we always go through it way too fast. They were also saying that the number of salmon this year was way down. Enjoy your fish!

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