Something Smells Fishy in Alaska

Summers may be short in Alaska, but the days are certainly long… almost never ending. As in, it never gets all the way dark.

That means summer is the time to get outdoors and enjoy the incredible natural beauty that the forty-ninth state has to offer before the long winter nights return. So, on our recent visit we did just that.

Our first adventure was a uniquely Alaskan experience, so much so that you must be a permanent Alaskan resident to participate in it. That meant that we could only be spectators while our son went about the business of netting salmon. We were not allowed to touch the fish or any of the equipment used to catch or store them. But watching was more than enough for us to get a full understanding of what dip netting is all about.

The process involves standing chest deep in the mouth of a river with a huge net and snagging the fish as they enter the stream from the ocean. Our son had explained this to us many times over the past few years on phone calls.

But what we had pictured in our minds was not quite like the real thing. So, in order to get the real scoop, we loaded up camping gear for a night on the beach and headed to Kenai to find out what it was really all about.

By the time we arrived hundreds of people already lined the banks. Each one held a nets up to six feet across just waiting for a salmon to swim into it. Not like any fishing I had ever done before!

On the other hand, it works. Our boy had his first catch within a few minutes, but then he went on a long dry spell. After a few hours I was beginning to wonder if he was going to get any more.

Then all hell broke loose! The high tide was receding and there were fish everywhere. Every single fisherman, or woman, was dragging out a full net every few minutes. The fish were jumping across the surface of the water and sea lions were everywhere in hot pursuit.

“Night time” during the summer in Alaska.

Meanwhile, thousands of seagulls swarmed the beach to pick up scraps left behind as folks cleaned their catch at the water’s edge. It was quite a scene and by the time things settled down about an hour later our son had eighteen big fish in the cooler.

He was ready to call it a day, so we settled in by the campfire for some dinner and a few cold beers. Then we hit the sack early because the next high tide, which is the best time for catching, was due at around five am.

But the tide had a bigger surprise in store for us.

At around 4:30 we awoke to a woman outside our tent yelling to get up. Through sleep blurred eyes I opened the flap to find that the sea had risen to within a foot or two of our tent. This good Samaritan had made like Paul Revere and warned everyone that “the water is coming; the water is coming!”

Scrambling out we pulled up stakes and dragged the tent up the beach to higher ground. Oh, I almost forgot to add that it was pouring rain while this episode took place.

Sleepy and soaked, we crawled back inside to try to catch a few more zzzzs. But of course, it was already daylight so… we waited for the rain to abate and then started our day.

The Boy caught five more fish that morning while we made breakfast and broke camp.

Back at home we all pitched in to clean and fillet the catch and then the best part, grilled the freshest salmon ever for an Alaskan meal like none other.

That gave us the strength for our next adventure of climbing up to an alpine lake, but more on that next time.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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