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Dipnetters enjoy record run

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Like mom always said, “Get ‘em while they’re hot.”

That seems to be the situation on the Kenai Peninsula lately as sockeye salmon make their run to the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. Roads were jammed with vehicles and boats as dipnetters were anxious to get to the water.

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“This is the most people we’ve ever seen down here for the dipnet fishery,” Kenai Police Department Chief Gus Sandahl said. “I never saw as many people as I did this weekend.”

From the slow opening weekend, the tides have seemed to turn. This weekend the fish were hot, and there seems to be no indication of the run slowing down.

“It was excellent starting Saturday afternoon-evening through yesterday (Sunday) and today (Monday),” Alaska Department of Fish and Game Biologist Robert Begich said. “The sportfishing’s excellent in the lower 30-plus miles of the river. It looks like today’s (Monday) number will be a good number as well.”

The number Begich is referring to is the index number that Fish and Game uses to track the fish during their runs. The number for late-run sockeye Sunday was more than 230,000, which broke the existing record of 217,000 set in 1987.

Dipnetters were still out in force Monday despite high winds and waves.

Sean Boulay was dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River last Sunday for the season opener, and said he only got four fish. Monday, he said he was able to grab 16 fish between him and his friend James Bridgeman. Both Boulay and Bridgeman are from Anchorage.

“Going from four fish in one tide to 16, that’s a pretty good improvement,” Boulay, 30, said.

Bridgeman, 31, said they try to use as much of the fish as possible.

“We’re getting our Christmas presents right now,” Bridgeman said. “We send out smoked salmon, it’s a good way to save money.”

Despite being from Anchorage, Boulay works in Big Lake where he manages a group assisted living home.

“I live in Anchorage, work in Big Lake, and play in Kenai,” he said.

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