Denali Northern Expenditure

Tag: Dipnetting

Dipnetting 2021

Each year, we go dipnetting as a family. In a matter of 24-48 hours, we catch enough salmon to last us all year. I’ve explained the dipnetting process here and even shared our salmon recipe if you want to know how we cook it weekly.

Florin and Penny were solid contributors. There are two ways to dipnet: Stand with your net in the water and wait for a fish to jump in, or add more poles to make it longer and walk as the tide goes out. The walking way catches more fish, but it also takes more mass and strength as the pole is longer and you have to put it in the water, walk with it, and then pull it out and carry it to do it again. This was the first year Penny was big enough to do it. She caught one and promptly quit, but at least she learned how to do it. Florin loves dipnetting while standing. She caught 5 of our 33 this year.

How did we do? The salmon counts were really low so there was hardly anyone on the beach (compared to the THOUSANDS which come when the salmon is running), which was lovely. But despite the low numbers, the fishing was pretty average. It wasn’t too terrible and it wasn’t fabulous either.  Total count: 33 salmon. – This equals 77 lbs of fillet meat (over 88 lbs if you count the salmon bellies that we’ve already smoked!). The fish were also pretty small this year, just like last year. Our smallest fillet: 11 oz. Biggest fillet: 29 oz (42 oz is our record). Our average fillet was 19.3 oz.

THE NUMBERS:

Every year I calculate all the expenses associated with dipnetting to see just how good of a deal we’re getting on our salmon.

Costs:

  • $40 – Fishing licenses for Mr. T and I.
  • $21.59 – Ice to keep the fish cool after catching.
  • $50 – New netting for Mr. T’s dipnet – his had lots of holes that we’ve had to patch over the years.
  • $28.08 – Gas for the car
  • $60 – The cost to camp on the beach two nights and drop our stuff off.
  • $22.75 – Blizzards at Dairy Queen for the whole family on the way home.
  • $FREE – New waders for Mr. T (I won a $500 Amazon gift card from Ally Bank earlier this year and used that to cover the waders)

Total Costs: $222.42

Total Cost Per Pound: $2.89

This exactly matches our lowest price per pound (in 2016).

We also got our smoker with last year’s haul (making 2020 our most expensive price per pound) and have been practicing all year. We smoke some pretty good meat! When you include the salmon bellies we have already smoked and put in the freezer from this year, it brings our price per pound down to $2.53! For reference, 2015 was $3.93 per pound, 2017 was $3.84 per pound, 2018 was $4.79 per pound, and 2019 was $2.64.

Another solid year of fishing a full freezer to show for it!

Dipnetting 2018: A Record-Breaking Catch!

Dipnetting 2018: A Record-Breaking Catch!

If you’ve been around, you already know that Dipnetting is my favorite holiday. It’s so fantastic. And after last year’s rainy year with less fish, it was nice to have a sunny year with lots of fish! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the story of Dipnetting 2018:

All through June, there were dismal salmon counts reported thanks to a “blob” of warm water that stunted spawning off the coast of Alaska a few years ago. There were fears there would be no fish to catch! We had planned to go fishing on Monday, July 16, but the fish counts were still unseasonably low, so we postponed until Wednesday.

We got down there Wednesday and fished Wednesday afternoon/evening and Mr. T and I caught a combined 9 (I only caught 1 of those). Mr. T got back in the water Thursday morning and only caught 1. Then, during the low tide Thursday afternoon, we both got back in the water with our nets and the fish came! It’s always so fun to see a spike in fish while you’re in the water. It starts boiling with salmon and we were just throwing them out of the water. We filled our coolers and had to stop because we couldn’t fit any more!

Our friends joined us Thursday night and we watched their two teenage sons catch 20 before we all ate dinner. We got home Friday around 5pm and Mr. T and I washed and filleted salmon until around 10:30pm and then packaged all the fillets with the FoodSaver for the freezer until about 2am Saturday.

We ended with a total of 34 sockeye salmon! (though our household limit is 65, we never need that much!) That equals 91.8 lbs of edible salmon fillets! 

Biggest fillet this year: 34 oz

Smallest fillet this year: 12 oz

Dipnetting Costs

Because you know I like to calculate all of our costs, here is everything we spent for this year’s dipnetting trip:

  • $107.46 – 2 new camping pads for Mr. T and I. After waking up on our $7 cheap inflatable pads with leaks and being extra sore for the second day of fishing, I decided we were too old for this and immediately ordered some nice camping pads for next year. So, even though we didn’t get to enjoy them for this year’s trip, I’m counting them as part of this year’s costs.
  • $60 – The cost of 2 nights of camping on the beach and a $10 drop-off fee (we’ve only ever stayed 1 night in the past, but quite enjoyed being there a second night).
  • $42 – Gas for the car for the roundtrip.
  • $6.58 – Ice to keep the fish cool.
  • $17.34 – The annual Blizzards at DQ for all five of us post-dipnetting on the way home (Mr. T and I split a large to cut costs).
  • $12.35 – Some PVC fittings and a plastic container: Every year I descale the fish while Mr. T fillets. I’ve been doing this in our coolers in the grass, but the bending over gets harder each year. This year, Mr. T developed a sort of sink think that drained the water out and he clamped the hose to the side so I could do everything standing up. It made it so much easier!
  • $58 – Fishing licenses for Mr. T and I.
  • $69.90 – 1 new net (just the netting) and 2 new pole extensions. After catching very little last year with my short net and dumb netting, we got me new netting and 2 pole extensions to make my net as long as his. I’m happy to report I was a very successful fisherwoman this year with the new gear!
  • $66 – The cost to get 12 lbs of our fish professionally smoked.

Total Costs: $439.63 – A much more expensive year than usual thanks to new gear and staying an extra night.

Total Cost Per Pound: $4.79/lb 

It was a record-breaking year for us on poundage (the most edible meat we’ve ever caught!) but it was also a record-breaking year for our cost per pound (in a bad way). Check out Dipnetting 2015, Dipnetting 2016, and Dipnetting 2017 to compare. $4.79 is still pretty good for market rate fresh sockeye salmon that we eat weekly. If you end up with some salmon, be sure to check out Mr. T’s perfect salmon recipe!

Alaska Day: Why Alaska is So Great!

Alaska Day: Why Alaska is So Great!

Today is Alaska Day and the day that I like to reflect on how awesome this state of Alaska really is each year. You’ve heard me brag about it all before, but here is my current list of why I love Alaska so much:

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  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.)

Dipnetting for Alaskan Salmon

Dipnetting: Subsistence Salmon Fishing

Hey friends! We’ve updated our newsletter to be a weekly email that goes out on Saturday mornings complete with blog post links, random spattering of other interesting links from the interwebs, and some friendly updates on the Banks. Sign up on the sidebar. Try it out. If you hate it, unsubscribe after the first email! I won’t be offended. I have heard several express interest in knowing more about the kind of things I read outside of the blog. I’ve changed our newsletter to share those interesting things that just don’t seem to fit here (and there are loads!)

You may have noticed last week I posted our UK post without pictures. It’s now updated, so check that out. The reason? The reds were running! If that phrase makes no sense to you, I’ll translate: “Over 50,000 Sockeye salmon are running up the Kenai river every single day and everything must stop so we can go catch them!”

Financial Benefits of Alaska

I wanted to write a post highlighting the financial benefits of living in Alaska. With oil prices low, the state of Alaska isn’t in a great financial position. The state’s operating budget has counted on major income from oil and that income is now severely lacking. Because of that, many of these things may change this next year. But as things stand now, despite our high cost of living, there are several major perks for living in the state.

What’s In My Freezer?

A chest freezer is a great way to help save time and money on food. If you have frozen meals ready to go, you’re less likely to order in or go out to eat. Freezing food can also help you cut down on wasted food. I love the idea of doing elaborate days of chopping and cooking and baking and freezing to have meals in the freezer for the full month. The reality, however, is that I don’t have the patience, time, or space in my freezer for this kind of thing (though we did do this before each of our babies was born and it was a lifesaver). In July, we fill our freezer with salmon from dipnetting. In Alaska, freezer sizes are dependent upon the type of animal you plan to freeze. We have a basic fish freezer and not a moose freezer, so after dipnetting, there isn’t a lot of space left. Instead of full meals, I’ve started freezing shortcuts. Here’s what’s currently in my freezer:

How to Save Money on Groceries (even in Alaska!)

Alaska is not a cheap place to live. It is also really hard to determine a “price point” for any item here because they can fluctuate greatly based on barges, etc. And Alaska doesn’t follow the usual, consistent grocery cycle budget-conscious shoppers in the lower 48 count on. With that in mind, there are ways to cut down the costs significantly on groceries in Alaska. Here’s how we do it:

The Best, Easy Salmon Recipe

Mr. T is a man of few words (but crazy ties… I mean, he has a shag carpet tie! I digress…). He’s the salmon chef around here, so I talked him in to jumping in on this post to share his Alaskan expertise (since he’s been cooking it weekly for about five years now). After last week’s dipnetting adventure, we’re ready to cook up some more! Grab your baking sheet, line it with foil and get ready. Here he is now! Introducing, Mr. T….

Dipnetting: How do you get your salmon?

Another fabulous benefit of being an Alaska state resident is the opportunity to dipnet for personal-use salmon. Between July 10-31, Alaska residents can use a gigantic net on a really long pole to catch salmon. The household limit is 25 for the head of household and 10 for each household member thereafter. If you haven’t already done the math in your head, our household limit is 65 salmon. Now that’s a ridiculous amount of salmon. We don’t bring home nearly that amount and we still eat it weekly in our home. It helps significantly with the food budget plus the added health benefits. And kids love salmon. Florin and Lui ate tons of it as babies and loved it. They still do.

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