Kenai dipnetting is an annual tradition for many Alaskan families. If you haven't tried it, this might be the year. Unlike Chitina dipnetting, there are no cliffs or deep eddies. Instead you're on a beautiful outstretched beach where the kids can safely run and play. The dipnetting itself may be best left to the adults, but the family outdoor opportunity is there.
According to Jenny Neymen of the ADN, now is the time to start planning your Kenai dipnetting trip! "Judging from the nonexistent crowds at the mouth of the Kenai River this week, it's still early July — days before the personal-use dipnet fishery begins Sunday. But beneath the waves is a time travel portal to the future, with sockeye salmon streaming into the fresh water in numbers more akin to mid-month.
"We're really kind of surprised at the daily passage rates we're seeing in the Kenai right now. If these daily passage rates continue when it opens on Sunday, there could be some good dip netting on the Kenai," said Jason Pawluk, assistant area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna.
Opening week of dip netting on the Kenai tends to be hit-or-miss. You might hit some decent concentrations of fish here and there, but not the permit-filling slugs that tend to plug the river a few weeks later.
Sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate all that well, but with planning, you'll be having fun no matter what! Don't forget to plan ahead and pick up some good raingear for the kids (check out our favorite heavy duty Granyte Frogger Raingear sets or Breathable Ripstop Rainwear from Oakiwear). Have a little adventurer? Consider youth chest waders for all-terrain fun!
This year, however, the future is shaping up to be now.
Fish and Game's Kenai late-run sockeye sonar counts started off with a bang July 1, with 11,732 fish, and have continued to climb. Monday saw 32,648 fish, Tuesday posted a count of 35,652 and Wednesday was looking to be another 35,000-day, Pawluk said. Last year, it was July 19 before the sonar logged a 35,000-plus day."
If you're familiar with dipping on the Kenai, there's one big change this year that will make your dipping experience a whole lot better!
"The other change is a new access road on the south side of the river, off Cannery Road from Kalifornsky Beach Road. Access to the south shore used to involve a long drive down the beach, threatening sensitive habitat and infringing on neighbors' land.
"There is private property in the old access corridor and it goes all the way up to mean high water, so there was a trespass issue there,'' Koch said. "And there were habitat issues with another half a mile having to drive on the beach, people getting up close to the dunes and creating some issues there."
Through a state grant, the city extended the existing road system to bring traffic out on the sand much closer to the fishing area. It does still require driving on the beach. Four-wheel- drive vehicles, an awareness of tides and a healthy dose of common sense are highly recommended."
So don't miss out, check out the Kenai and the Kasilof Rivers this year to put salmon in your freezer!
An nope, it's never too early!!!
Good luck out there this year.