Dipnetting in Alaska is one of the annual highlights, anxiously awaited by the residents. The fishery is an integral part of Alaska’s cultural heritage.
Hence, as new residents, we can’t let this pass. Dipnetting is a must-experience during summer! Not only will the residents get to enjoy the experience, but we also get to stock enough fish to savor throughout the year.
Since this is our first-time fishing, we may not know everything. But we definitely know the basic, the essential, and the legal way of dipnetting in Alaska.
What is Dipnetting?
Dipnetting is when you use a large-diameter net to scoop fish out of the river. In Alaska, only residents are allowed to do dipnetting.
The catch during the season is not limited to Hooligan. A variety of salmon species and other can be caught, this includes King salmon, Silver salmon, Red Salmon (most popular), Pink salmon, and Flounder. In areas where removal of king salmon is not allowed, they must remain in the water.
What does ‘Personal Use’ mean?
Alaska Department of Fish and Game defined “Personal use” as “the taking, fishing for, or possession of finfish, shellfish, or other fishery resources, by Alaska residents for personal use and not for sale or barter, with gill or dip net, seine, fish wheel, long line, or other means defined by the Board of Fisheries“.
Per AS 16.05.415(a), “resident” means a person (including an alien) who is physically present in Alaska with the intent to remain indefinitely and make a home here, has maintained that person’s domicile in Alaska for the 12 consecutive months immediately preceding this application for a license, and is not claiming residency or obtaining benefits under a claim of residency in another state, territory, or country…“.
Therefore, only Alaskan residents for 1 year are allowed to do dipnetting.
Dipnetting Locations in Alaska
Personal Use Fishing locations are divided into three areas.
1. Southeast (aka Panhandle)
Southeast Alaska covers areas from the U.S.-Canada border below Prince of Wales Island north to Yakutat and to Cape Suckling. That also includes Ketchikan, Sitka, Peterburg/Wrangell, Juneau, and Haines/Skagway. More information on the Southeastern area here.
The Interior Region is the largest area in the state. It includes the state’s largest river systems – Yukon, Kuskokwim, Colville, and Noatak rivers. Fishery areas are Chitina Copper River, Tahana River, and Chatanika River just north of Fairbanks. More information on the Interior region here.
3. Southcentral (Region II)
The Southcentral region extends northwest from Prince William Sound to the southern slopes of the Alaska Range, and encompasses Anchorage, Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay, Kodiak Island, and the Aleutian Islands. Fishing areas include Kenai River, Kasilof River, Fish Creek, China Poot, Cook Inlet, Susitna River, and Kachemak Bay. Read more information on the Southcentral region here.
Long Road Trip
Depending on where you are staying, some of these locations are miles away. Prepare for a long road trip.
Since we live in Anchorage, it took us 2.5 hours to Kenai River. Hours will vary depending on your speed. I made a separate post on how to survive and enjoy a long road trip.
Alaska Fishing License and Dipnetting Permit
Let us discuss the license and permit necessary for fishing and dipnetting.
1. First and foremost, you must be an Alaskan resident.
2. If you are above 18 years old, you must have a valid Alaskan resident Sport Fishing License.
3. Only 1 dipnetting permit per household.
>The head of the household is allowed 25 salmon, and each additional member is allowed 10 salmon.
4. The dipnetting permit must be reported online or mailed to the Alaska Department Fish & Game by the said date even if you didn’t catch anything.
*You can now buy the license and permit online. We bought ours at Walmart for $29.
Now that you have a clear understanding of the dipnetting rules in Alaska, here is the essential dipnetting gear you should prepare before heading out:
Do not forget to bring your fishing license, dipnetting permit, and a copy of fishing regulations everywhere you go. Officers can stop you at any time to check your license.
A dipnet comes in a variety of lengths and sizes. Keep a spare dipnet in case it gets damaged.
Water is very cold, and you are immersed in water for several hours. It is good to have a wading suit to protect yourself from hypothermia. They are also waterproof.
Different stores sell different waders in different types, materials, and style. We bought ours (brown wading suit) at Cabela’s.
4. Long Gloves
The pole is very slippery. Gloves can give you traction so the pole is not slipping in your hand.
Cleaning and Cutting the Fish
We highly suggest that you clean and cut the fish at the beach. It can be very messy, smelly, and bloody. You don’t want that in your kitchen! You will need:
2. Cutting board/table
3. Sharp knife
The salmon is very slippery. It will be easier for you to hold them if you are wearing gloves.
5. Fish bonker
You can either hit them on the head with your hand or use a stick/bonker.
6. Ice cubes*
We didn’t bring ice cubes right away, since you don’t know how long you will stay on the beach. What we did is after leaving the beach, we stop by a convenience store to buy 1 or 2 bags of ice cubes.
Storing the Fish
You can do this at your home. After a long day of fishing, you are probably too tired. You can leave your fish in the cooler overnight, provided there are lots of ice cubes inside. And vacuum/store them early in the morning the next day. We bought a vacuum sealing system and plastic bags to store the fish.
Aside from your waders, bring with you a raincoat and ball cap. Wear thermal sweaters, pants and socks. As I have mentioned, the water is cold. And the weather can be unpredictable. Just because it is summer, it doesn’t guarantee sunny, hot weather. Bring a spare set of clothing just in case you get wet.
Some people set camps on the beach for several days to enjoy this activity. If you plan to camp on-site, you will need a tent or canopy and sleeping bags. You can also bring lawn chairs, snacks and lots of water! Though there is a Fred Meyer near the Kenai River, you can always buy food there if you run out. Bring first aid kit (you’ll never know!). They only have a portable toilet there, and it is nasty! Bring sanitizer, wipes, and toilet paper!!!
Dipnetting with Kids
Younger kids can’t go dipnetting yet. Bring some toys to keep them occupied!
1. Buy all your essential gears, including dipnets beforehand. The price of products on-site could be more expensive.
2. Team up with friends and family. Assign tasks such as bonking, cleaning, packing fish. My husband did all the fishing, and I did the cleaning and cutting!
3. Have two dipnets to save time. Keep them in your sight.
4. Use the Tide book, so you know when to fish.
Tide Tables Book
We got this Tide book at Walmart. It has the tide tables for different locations – Anchorage, Valdez, Cordova, Kodiak, Kenai River, Deep Creek, Seward, and Homer.
We chose to dipnet at Kenai River. The table will show the possible size of the salmon, what time is the high tide, and how deep is the water.
We went dipnetting on July 12. It says that high tide is at 9:59am. It means we should be at the beach before 9:59am. So this table will help you plan your trip.
Catching fish through dipnets can be mainly divided into two categories: Shore-based Dipnetting and Boat-based dipnetting. Usually, commercial fishers use boats to catch fish. Shore-based dipnetting is usually for personal use. There are different techniques. It is up to you to figure out which one works best for you.
We surely had a great time catching fish. And we are already looking forward to next year!
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Author's Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the company in question before planning your trip.
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