Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dip-Net Madness...Flooding, Bike Trailers and Salmon Love.

I just returned from one of my favorite activities of the summer- dipping Copper River Red Salmon. My  frequent partner and I made plans despite the prolonged winter. One of the things about the Copper is that the water level is very critical and a long prolonged winter followed by sudden bout of hot weather put so much water off the mountains and in the drainages that the Copper spilled it's banks. Water was running at flood stage for a couple of weeks prior to our trip and a number of the fishwheels in the Chitna area had washed downstream. The high water and a heavy harvest by the commercial fishery made the personal use fishery look like a dicey proposition. Undeterred by the bad outlook we went fishing anyway.

We arrived at the trailhead rather late in the day- 9:00pm and began the long trek down the trail to our favorite fishing hole. I was trying something new- a bike trailer behind my mountain bike. I had feared the heavy avalanche activity would have made the precarious trail unpassable on a full size ATV so the more compact footprint of the bike might have been an asset. Gary was on his compact ATV. It was immediately obvious that the bike trailer was a great choice for this trail. I had no problems matching pace with Gary and on certain sections of rough trail I could zip right through where the quad had to pick it's way through. One thing was for certain- we nearly had the river to ourselves on the normally busy fishery.

We arrived at the fishing hole at 10:30p and set in for a night of fishing despite the mosquito population. Within 60 seconds Gary had a fish in his net and it only would get better from there. The action was hot and furious by any standard achievable. In 90 minutes I had 30 fat reds in the bag- it's nearly impossible to catch and bag fish any faster. I stopped just short of midnight- exhausted and bloody. I began the arduous task of packing the fish up the cliffs to the trail and my bike and then the 4 miles back to the truck. The task would take me all night in the midnight sun, the summer heat and the bugs.

I finished up about 5:00a and while waiting for Gary to complete hauling his fish out I decided to pick up my supplemental of 10 fish. The supplemental had opened at midnight and even though the fishing had slowed considerably I decided to give it a whirl. By 6:00a I had 9 in the bag with one left to limit- I threw back several "dinks" hoping for an elusive King (Chinook) Salmon to hit the net. But no luck in an endeavor dripping with it... the sun crested the high ridge and the bugs came out in force. Feeling pin pricks though my pants, I looked down and a legion of mosquitoes nearly covered my legs.

Despite being one shy- I was done. 21 hours of nonstop fishing madness and I was covered in slime, blood, mud and bugs.  Exhausted.

I shot a few minutes of Go Pro video and must apologize about the shoddy camera angle but I'll share it anyway.

If you'll excuse me- I've got salmon to smoke.


Should Fish More said...

Envious of the reds you'll have in the freezer, do you smoke any?

Having lived up there, I follow somewhat the fishery. From what I read, the King fishery is in the third really bad year, and the Kenai peninsula is essentially closed.

Also, are you getting the heat wave that made temps in Talkeetna hit 96? I had a house there in the '70's, and can't imagine it that hot. The mosquitoes must be vicious this year.

hodgeman said...

I mainly smoke and can reds... just the way I utilize them better.

King's are suffering south of here and the Gulkana is already closed. Dipnet kings limit was 1 but I didn't catch one. My partner did catch one.

Yeah- heat this year is bad...high 80s and 90s. Not unusual for some places, but here it is.

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