Friday, October 5, 2012

Chitna dipnetting

Many families in Alaska get their salmon for the year by dipnetting, basically dipping a net in the water and pulling your fish out.  It sounds much less sporting and difficult than it is!  Last year just the guys went dipnetting. It isn't exactly considered "girly" activity. This year Jenny Lee really wanted to go before she graduates from high school and I love to eat fish so I really wanted to contribute to the effort so a date was set and off we went!  Here Dan checks out the trail before attempting to drive it.  From this vantage point it looks easy...

But there are parts where staying upright on the ATV isn't as easy as it looks.  From here it looks like Dan is just driving down an incline.  What you can't see is Rodney hanging off the other side keeping it from tipping.  

Like this:

But surviving the trail is well worth the effort.  We hit the salmon run on a great day and were at times hauling in two fish at a time.  This picture does give a good perspective on the Copper River.  The banks are incredibly steep so finding a good spot to fish doesn't always yield an easy climb out!  The Copper is also incredibly fast running and silty - not a place you want to fall in!  We made sure to tie off (blue rope) so that we wouldn't lose anyone.  Jenny and Rodney did most of the dipping.  The next person up (my job most of the day) hauled the net up to a small level spot where we would kill the fish and hang them on a stringer, then haul them over to the fish cleaner/fillet person (Dan).  I knew that I didn't have the upper body strength to fight the water with the net (yes, it was quite a job just to fight the current) but I neglected to consider how much strength it was taking to haul the fish up the hill.  I didn't sleep much that night due to sore shoulders!  Here Jenny is showing off her catch:

And another:

They weren't all that pretty by the time we'd hauled them half way up the hill, killed them and strung them.  They had been GORGEOUS before that!  These are red or sockeye salmon and they were HUGE this year!

It was a gorgeous place to spend the day, even if it wasn't sunny!

The salmon were then taken over to a quiet cove where Dan filleted them.  Once Jenny got tired of dipping she went over to help get them cleaned up before he filleted them.  This is also back at the river level, but you couldn't get there from the dipping spot without going up and over.  So once you got them half way up the hill you had to go back down to where they could be filleted.

The first 40 or so fish were fun, but by the time you hit 50 or 60, it was just plain hard work!  Once they were filleted, they still had to be hauled back up the hill to the ATVs!  A lot less weight by that point, but a lot longer haul!

Then we got to reverse our ATV ride and with a heavy load this time.  Rodney used the winch to assist Dan's ATV up that steep ledge.

But what scenery!

Oh, really?  Funny thing is, they actually take pretty good care of the trail out there...

The parking lots both right and left in this picture were packed.  The tables by the stream are there for cleaning your fish.  That road coming down on the other side was one narrow lane!  Glad we didn't meet anyone coming around the corner!  Almost everyone was pulling a trailer so there was no easy way to get out of there if you did meet someone!  We didn't see any bears but others had seen them quite recently.  Where there are fish there will be bears!  They like to eat the fish probably even more than I do!

The efforts were well worth it!  Copper River reds are incredibly yummy!  Take a look at that meat!  I'm drooling now!  Time to go grab some from the freezer and fry it up for dinner!  :)

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