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 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.
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
- $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.
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?