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.
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, 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.
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.