Kenai River dipnetters delighted as red salmon surge past

Mike Campbell
Sammy Rogers, of Wasilla, untangles a red salmon while dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Molly Frati and John Frati hold the net while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Crystal Ham, of Wasilla, pulls in her net while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Doug Ohms carries a red salmon while dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
William Holmes, Raquel Wilson and Chasity Parrett show off a couple of the red salmon their families netted while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Seleue Toia, from Anchorage, holds up a flounder caught by his family while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Paul White and James Meier, from Wasilla, load some of the 14 red salmon their group caught into the cooler while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Seleue Toia, from Anchorage, holds up a flounder caught by his family while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Lindsey Hunter holds a red salmon while dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Jeff Johnson and Vera Johnson fillet red salmon while dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Molly Frati waits for a salmon to hit her net while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Gulls fight for scraps during red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Jason Watkins and Dezzy Watkins are buried in sand while on a family trip red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Frank Gurske of Palmer cleans the five red salmon he caught while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010. as a flock of gulls clean up the offal.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Molly Frati waits for a salmon to hit her net while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
William Holmes shows a red salmon his family netted while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Jorcyn Caldwell rests her head on the net handle and closes her eyes as she and Katie Sanders of Eagle River wait for a red to hit their net while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Crystal Ham and Tommy Rogers untangle a salmon which Rogers caught while Red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Danielle Ohm's and Marina Noebel's salmon in a bucket on the beach while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010. This was Nobel's first fish.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Ashley Rogers cleans a red salmon her group caught while red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Jason Watkins is buried in sand while on a family trip red salmon dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai, AK on Saturday July 10, 2010.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

Of all the fishing cliches that have been repeated for decades, "You should have been here yesterday" may be the hardiest.

Steve Rasmussen is already uttering the words

"Today was the best day ever," Rasmussen said from the mouth of the Kenai River on Monday, after hauling one fat red salmon after another to the beach. "I caught the first day of the heavy-duty run.

"I haven't eaten all day. I'm starving. I think there are two pieces of ham stuffed somewhere in my pocket."

Rasmussen, an Internet developer from Wasilla, was taking part in the popular and intoxicating Alaskans-only personal-use dipnet fishery that began Saturday at the mouth of the Kenai River. Action was slow on Saturday, and reportedly slower Sunday.

Not Monday.

"I probably have would have 25 if I didn't have an injured back," said Rasmussen, who brought 15 to the beach. "I see a chiropractor and he makes me take lots of breaks. But every single one of mine must be 15 pounds or better."

"A lot of people around me seem to have their 25."

That's the limit per season for the first household member. Additional household members participating in the Kenai and Kasilof fisheries can take another 10 fish. Anglers need sportfishing licenses -- nonresidents are barred from fishing or helping in any way -- and each family must have a free permit on which to log the catch.

Tail lobes must be removed before bagging your catch or leaving the beach.

While the fish were storming the Kenai on Monday, Rasmussen said most netters hadn't gotten the word. He estimated the crowd between 1,500 and 2,000 -- a fraction of the 17,000 or so he expects each day later this month.

"No major issues," reported Kenai police chief Gus Sandahl. "Traffic flow was efficient on the beach and at the dock, but we didn't have high numbers of participants."

Rasmussen agreed.

"Everybody's nice," he said. "It's relatively uncrowded. No problems parking at all.

"It's great to be out here. Yesterday and today, the sun has been out. No rain, blue skies. You can see (Mount) Redoubt across the Inlet.

"Must be all that clean living," he laughed.

Expect all that to change by the time you read this. Rain is in today's forecast.

But unless it snows, expect crowds of netters.

The Kenai dipnet fishery has exploded in popularity. Last year, an estimated 340,000 red salmon were harvested -- 45 percent more than 2008. As recently as 2006, 128,000 were harvested.

Rasmussen will try his luck one more day.

"I'm more than halfway to my limit and with a little luck, I'll make a dent in it tomorrow."

Which will be good. Rasmussen's family eats fish twice a week, year around, and the supply is waning. Besides, duty is calling.

"I need to get back to work sometime," he said.

Reach reporter Mike Campbell at mcampbell@adn.com or 257-4329.


By MIKE CAMPBELL
mcampbell@adn.com