Dipnetting is on once again, and after last years chaotic approach Jeff and I have stepped up our approach, not to any serious level of refinement, but an improvement on last year’s effort. Last year we bombed back and forth between the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, our only strategy being to keep our nets in the water as long as possible, with marathon sessions of boozing while standing chest deep in the water. Last weekend, after discovering the Kasilof had opened for the season, Jeff spent Friday and Saturday monitoring the commercial fish hotline for a convenient closure in the schedule, a drift net free tide that would allow plenty of fish to make it to the river’s mouth and get caught in our nets. We finally decided on Sunday morning’s incoming tide, assuming the fishing would be decent from around 11, to the crest at around 3. when we’d exit the river and head home.

So after 2 days fishing out of Homer aboard Brad’s boat, The Bosses Wife, Jeff and I drove to Kasilof Saturday night where we passed out in the sand. We woke up early, I don’t know when exactly, but near abouts low tide, took off for breakfast, and returned to find the tide coming in strong. Instead of a mad charge for the water in our usual vein, we pulled out chairs, opened a couple beers and slowly watched. As we sat the two of us formulated a couple bench marks, or indicators that we’d use to decide when the fish had arrived (when we’d get in the water), and slowly the tide rose, the seals showed up, and people began catching fish, with each beached salmon counting as a “confirmed kill.” At first we only saw a slow stream of confirmed kills on the opposite bank, and a couple of crafty Natives landing nice fish on our bank, the northern side, which seemed to harbor clueless people continuously charging out of the water as if they had a fish in their net only to reveal nothing, or at best, a 4 inch flounder. One particular repeat offender was soon given the moniker of the False Alarm, and we soon decided the best indicator that the river was full of fish would be this yellow hatted buffoon landing a salmon.
And so, not long after the seals had arrived, the tide had begun to cover the mud flats, and the boats moored in the channel finally swung around to drift on the incoming current; the False Alarm landing two fish in quick succession, prompting Jeff and I to grab our nets and enter the water. Neither of us had been in the water for more then a minute before we each a caught fish, and so it continued with a fish every few minutes, for a little more then an hour, when both our were coolers began to overflow (the lids having been lids knocked askew by a couple wriggling fish which were now flopping around on the beach in a muddy and bloody mess) and we quit fishing to fillet and defend our catch from the annoying seagulls. The fishing had begun to slow, from a roar to a steady stream, and in the time we’d been in the water Jeff and I had had the luck to catch more fish then anyone, save our Native friend who had been killing it since we’d awoke, and at one point caught two while walking with his net towards the deeper water.
And so throughout last week, as I sat at work, hurting and recovering from the crazy weekend (more on this in a later post), Sunday’s dip-net session loomed in my mind like a beautiful desert, a tasty finish to a crazy weekend, and hopefully a prelude to the fishing that was to come the following weekend. After the ruthless efficiency of Sunday’s harvest and slaughter I spent the week believing that Jeff and I’s skills with the net had progressed to the level that quick bountiful harvests would be the way of the future, or at least next weekend.
At some point during the week Jeff, (who’s working as Max’s intern and has nothing better to do at work) identified another set of favorable tides closed to commercial fishing, and plans were put into place. Max decided he’d let Jeff off work early so he and I could drive to Kenai Saturday afternoon, while he’d fly there with the Pete, where we’d pick them up, and begin slaughtering countess red salmon. So Jeff and I took off Saturday around 6 and joined the slow procession of motor homes, tourists and dip-netters driving south along the Seward Highway.
Somewhere near Portage we found a crazy AM station which as we drove through the pass devolved into a crazy tale of spells. Supposedly someone had grievously wronged this particular show’s host, and although we (the listeners) were left in the dark as to the nature of the offense we were assured that it was grave, and that it had been done intentionally, with but no other purpose then to seriously blemish the life of our stricken host, pouring his heart out to us over the scratchy static filled airwaves of a random AM radio station. And so i a guest was brought on the air, who, we were assured, knew of the offense, and was so familiar with it’s many nuances and complexities that there could be no doubt she possessed a fair and reasonable view of it’s nature, and was abliged by the show’s host to decide whether the host would be permitted, morally, to cast a similar spell upon the life of he who had wronged him. I apologize for rambling, but as I hear the nasal voice of that crazy women and her claims to witch craft reverberating in my mind I can’t help but imitate her crazy style of speech.
All this was going on while I began pouring a Whiskey and Coke and Jeff raced by yet another slow moving RV and suddenly we were on open road and the sun began peaking through the clouds, things were looking up. But it seems, we ourselves may have been the victim of a spell as out of nowhere came a State Trooper who threw his lights on immediately and we were forced to pull over.
The moment officer Willis approached the vehicle expected disaster, the entire car stunk of Whiskey, and fear turned to dread as he asked Jeff to step out of the vehicle. Jeff, breezed pass his sobriety checks and barely registered a thing on the breathalyzer. But by some legal quirk the open container allowed officer Willis to impound the vehicle and force us to hitch hike to Cooper Landing, where we were told we could have the vehicle back when we were sober, which apparently meant 8 am, when the Tesoro which toed our car opened the following morning.
So Jeff and I found ourselves walking along the highway towards Cooper Landing, and after a couple miles we were picked up hitch hiking and given a ride by some kid who’s name i’ve forgotten, but if somehow you end up reading this, thank you. Anyway, along the way Max called, who’d landing in Kenai and we informed him of our plight which brought about quite a bit of laughter I heard through the phone. Jeff and I were arrived at the Tesoro, and began talking to the guys who’d toed it about how we could possibly get it back, the entire situation seeming increasingly stupid. Eventually they gave Jeff the keys back for 60 dollars, they asked for 100, but when Jeff said he had 60 but would go to the ATM they called it good, but warned us that Officer Willis was on duty till 2, and that we’d need to find an alternate driver if we were to leave safely before that hour.
So we found ourselves sitting on the gas stations dock, looking out over the Kenai river when a blue and white plane appeared that we instantly suspected to be Max, and as the plane approached we quickly recognized the plane and began jumping up and down and waving furiously, Max circled, landed and pulled up to the dock as a hoard of Columbian tourists ran down the hill to check out the plane. The 10-12 Columbians quickly began poking the plane and asking all sorts questions. Max asked if they were Juan Pablo Montoya fans and they weren’t very enthusiastic, hinting that his demotion to nascar had soured their respect of his skills. Any way, they were all over the plane, like a pack of ravenous wolves going after a moose carcass, they even began climbing inside and posing for pictures. Although they were a bit aggressive, I found the Columbians to be a nice lot, but anyway, the Pete got behind the wheel of Jeff’s car, and I climbed in the back of Max’s plane and we were off, and in the words of the tow truck driver, “pretty slick.”
On the way to Kenai Max took a detour and we flew down to the Kasilof where the sight of people running out of the water with fish in their nets upped the excitement of what was to come, but as we turned north and flew along the beach towards Kenai the site of a giant maze of nets quickly killed any hope for catching fish on the Kenai, as I couldn’t imagine more then a couple fish getting past the endless stretch of drift nets, hardly 50 feet between them heading out over a mile into the inlet.
By the time we’d parked the plane, picked up more beer, and driven to the Kasilof it was just past high tide so we hardly put our nets in the water before retreating to start a fire and set up camp, hoping to make a killing the following day when the commercial fisherman wouldn’t intercept our nets.  

I slept well, woke up and starting thinking about catching some fish. The tide was on it’s way in, but still quite low. So i took up my seat on a cooler, opened a breakfast beer and began waiting for the usual signs of fish (seals, numerous confirmed kills, a couple jumpers, etc) to arrive. Except as time went by I saw very few fish caught, and eventually, the Pete spotted and pointed out the endless line of buoys across the horizon. It seemed the commercial fisherman had corked us off. Jeff quickly called the slut fish hot line and confirmed that an emergency order had been announced, opening the Kasilof to commercial fishing. It seems a lot of other people got the message as well, as word soon went around the beach that the commercial fisherman had screwed everyone over. Eventually we entered the water, but the only fish caught were puny little ones completely covered in net marks, leading us to conclude that the only fish making the mouth of the river were immature and small enough to escape the commercial drift nets.

Through my job I deal with a certain state agency (which will remain nameless) staffed with nothing but incompetent lazy fools and have therefore come to accept the state of Alaska’s vast level of idiocy. However, that being said, the level of stupidity shown by Fish and Game last weekend is shocking. To broadcast for days on end that certain tides would be drift net free, and convince thousands of people to drive hundreds of miles hoping to take advantage of the chance to stock there freezers with tasty fish and to secure a major part of their winter food source, only to change their minds at the last minute and re-open to the commercial fishing shows a level of short sightedness I couldn’t believe. The ass hats that come up with this and then hide behind the anonymity of a recorded phone message should be gutted and filleted as well. I’ll be returning to the peninsula in search of more fish this coming weekend, although with low expectations. Hopefully Fish and Game will allow us to get some fish and feed ourselves, rather then concern themselves with supplying the Japaneses and their voracious appetites, as seems to be their policy. The fact that in times of low fish they put restrictions on sport and personal use fisheries while commercial fisherman are reeling in plump nets with thousands of fish apiece is maddening and nonsensical. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet found anything to do about it other then rant here for a bit so there you have it. I’ll get back to work and hope for better fishing this weekend, without the interference of annoying fish and feathers officers and policies.

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