Photos: 2014 Kenai River dipnetting

Roxanne Halsted holds on to her net during opening day of the Kenai River personal use salmon dipnetting season on Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News
Kenai Police patrol vehicle makes a pass on the beach after the 11 p.m. closure at the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Seagulls multiplied in numbers as the dipnetters cleaned sockeye salmon at the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Khalial Withen and Zack Fields dipnet just before the 11 p.m. closure at the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News
Dipnetters use a walkway to cross over the protected sand dunes and beach grass near the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Private boats dipnet for sockeyes above the Kenai River mouth on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Dipnetters arc around the southern point of the Kenai River mouth on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
The bright red meat of a Kenai River sockeye is exposed while being filleted on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Wesley Oliver of Anchorage walks a red salmon towards shore while dipnetting at the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
A dipnetter harvests a Kenai River red salmon on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Mason Lloyd of Kenai Parks and Recreation combs the beach to collect dead fish and deposit them in the water during the Kenai River dipnetting season on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Byron Yang of Anchorage rinses a red salmon caught he caught by dip net at the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Justin Ching tends to a campfire in the sand while dipnetting at the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Dawson Herrick, 19, helps a customer looking to purchase a Mike's Welding dipnet in Sterling on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Buck Kunz on Friday, July 11, 2014, has been working at his dad's shop Mike's Welding in Sterling since he was 11-years-old.
Bill Roth
Kate Oliver processes a sockeye salmon caught by dip net at the mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
A prized Kenai River sockeye is brought towards the beach after being rinsed on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Si Yoon Ko, 84, of Anchorage, who has fished every season for the past 30 years, looks out over the Kenai River dipnetting scene on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Kurosh Kianipour of Anchorage cleans red salmon on the beach while dipnetting at the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Si Yoon Ko, 84, of Anchorage, who has dipnetted every season for the past 30 years, walks his self-made net down to mouth of the Kenai River on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Bill Roth
Seagulls fight for possession of a fish head on opening day of the Kenai River personal use salmon dipnetting season on Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Bill Roth
Carolyn Bettes of Anchorage carries a red salmon back to shore after cleaning and rinsing the fish on opening day of the Kenai River personal use salmon dipnetting season on Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Bill Roth
Dipnetters line both sides of the Kenai River mouth on, July 12 , 2014.
Bill Roth
The City of Kenai charges for parking and camping on the beach during the Kenai River dipnetting season on Saturday, July 12, 2014.
Bill Roth
Fishers dipnet for sockeye salmon near the mouth of the Kenai River on Sunday, July 13, 2014. The resident only fishery draws thousand of people to the Kenai River and Kasilof River.
Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News
Bill Roth

KENAI -- Like prospectors rushing to reap their fortunes from fabled veins of ore, thousands of Alaskans turn a small Southcentral city into a boomtown each summer. But the people who nearly triple the size of the Kenai -- about 160 road miles south of Anchorage -- aren't looking for gold. The bonanza they are after is red. Their paystreak: millions of sockeye salmon that propel themselves toward the mouth of the Kenai River each July. Their pilgrimage, much like the salmon they chase, ends in the turquoise-blue waterway that meanders 82 miles into Cook Inlet from a large, glacier-fed lake.

Welcome to the Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery.

When the river is choked with fish it also becomes thick with people. More than 10,000 fishermen pack themselves onto two strips of mud and sand, less than a mile long. Thousands more fill hundreds of boats that crowd another half-mile-long section river. If counted as a metropolis, the 15,000 people that pack the area on any given weekend would be Alaska's fourth-largest city.

Their days are marked by both frenzied action and seemingly serene moments. Some people jockey for the best spots -- battling each other, the tides and of course, the fish. Others seem content to sit quietly, wrapped in an embrace of sweaters and rain gear. At night, a steady din of hushed conversation, seagull screeches, and smoke waft through the air, creeping upward like the tendrils of flame that can been seen from campfires dotting the beach. Together, the sounds and smells add a uniquely Alaska undertone to the salty breeze that seems to constantly blow off Cook Inlet.

"It's kind of like our version of Woodstock," said Kenai City Manager, Rick Koch.

READ MORE: Riding herd on Kenai's wacky, wonderful fish-killing rodeo