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Outdoors/Adventure

Hooligan return to Cook Inlet waters

People fish for hooligan north of Twentymile River along Turnagain Arm last week. The returns are unpredictable but generally peak by mid-May, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Hooligan, the oily fish also called candlefish for their ability to burn when dried, are returning to Southcentral Alaska’s rivers and creeks. And so are the anglers hoping to catch them.

The fish tend to swarm in the deepest parts of the channels in Turnagain Arm, making easy pickings for the dipnetters who were lined up along the shore at low tide late last month near Twentymile River.

Jia Lee holds a hooligan caught north of Twentymile River along Turnagain Arm. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Jeremias Ramos was pulling in 20-30 of the small fish with each dip. His 5-gallon bucket was nearly full after about 15 minutes. When asked what his favorite way was to eat them, he said, “I fry them in a pan with salt. Just salt.”

Farm Saelee carries a full bucket of hooligan to her group last week north of Twentymile River along Turnagain Arm. Saelee said she likes to prepare the small, oily fish by making a soup from it with hot pepper, garlic, lemongrass, green onion and ginger. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Farm Saelee, fishing with a few friends, was carrying a bucket full of fish across the slippery, muddy bank. She plopped it down next to two other overflowing buckets. The group was pulling in so many fish they resorted to using a cloth bag to collect more fish.

Farm Saelee empties a net full of hooligan caught by Chris Saetern. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

There is no bag or possession limit on hooligan, and anyone with an Alaska resident sport fishing permit can take them through May 31 in salt water. In fresh water, the season extends to June 15.

Saelee’s favorite way to eat hooligan is to make a soup of out it with hot pepper, garlic, lemongrass, green onion and ginger.

Billy Katchtag, fishing nearby with Janet Grow, prefers to pan fry the fish with cornmeal. He said he grew up eating them dried and smoked.

There is no bag limit on hooligan, and anyone with an Alaska resident sport fishing license can dipnet for them through May 31 in salt water. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

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