Residents, visitors put dipnet fishery to use
Jim and Marie Bradford have lived in Kenai for over 45 years. Until Sunday, they had never been dipnetting. Their first attempt landed them 21 fish in a few hours at the mouth of the Kenai River.
"We're retired now, so we decided to try it," Marie Bradford, 62, said. "We're doing things we never got to do before because we always worked."
Sunday was a day full of dipnet rookies.
Buddy Eggebroten, from Anchorage, was also dipnetting at the mouth of the river. Sunday was the second day he had ever dipnetted.
"It's something I haven't done before, and I wanted the opportunity of getting more fish, I'm after meat," Eggebroten said. "Sportfishing is great, but I need fish, I need food."
Eggebroten said dipnetting is a way to obtain a large amount of meat in a limited amount of time.
The excitement of catching salmon is what brought Brent Hathcoat to Kenai. Originally from Arkansas, Hathcoat was used to catching catfish, which doesn't offer a whole lot of thrills.
"We just catch catfish, which is like a worm on the end of a pole, it's pretty simple stuff," Hathcoat said.
Last year was his first time dipnetting, but he failed to catch any salmon. Like Eggebroten, Hathcoat said he likes to dipnet for the amount of fish he can catch. This season has been kind to him.
"I already filled up my freezer," he said.
The large amount of fish he's caught so far makes up for the cold weather the last couple days.
"The weather is brutal," Hathcoat said. "But it's still beautiful out here."
11-year-old Chase Miller from Kenai was able to successfully catch his first fish in a dipnet Sunday. He had some trouble getting the fish to the beach, but prevailed by putting his whole body in to the effort.
This year's heavy run of sockeye salmon has kept the Peninsula populated by visitors from all over the state. Robert Croom, Sr. has been running his food vendor cart at the Kenai Dunes since last weekend. He estimated there are 400 to 500 cars each day during the weekend that come through the dunes parking area.
"That's a pretty substantial number just for this zone," Croom said. "[Kenai Police Department] has done a fantastic job with handling the traffic."
Law enforcement agencies have taken the appropriate steps to ensure safety at the different fisheries. KPD Seasonal Enforcement Officer Dominick Eubanks patrols the Kenai Dunes.
"It's pretty relaxed," Eubanks said. "We've had a pretty big enforcement presence down here,"
Kenai City Dock employs dock attendants to ensure boaters can launch and load their boats as fast as possible. However, there have been delays in the process lately.
"When people are loading and unloading, they're tying up to the dock in any particular way," dock attendant Sammy Hull said. "What we're trying to prevent is people to tie up while their driver is coming or coming back.
"So what we're trying to get people to do is have people idle in the water to wait for their driver. We noticed yesterday (Saturday) when we told people to do that, it's been bing-bang-boom."
Dan Evenson has been a dock attendant for nine years. He said boaters should stay off the floats while waiting for their driver.
"That's the number one issue," he said.
Hull noticed boaters are in a hurry to get in and out of the water to be able to get to back home.
"Most people are from Anchorage or Wasilla," Hull said.
The Bradfords said they are willing to share their city with the rest of the state.
"They have to buy permits just like us. And they have to go out and work for ‘em just like we do," Marie said. "They have a family to feed too, and times are tough now."
"As long as they're not going out and selling it," Jim, 68, said.
Eubanks believes the city's visitors will have a positive impact on the Peninsula.
"It just brings more people into the city to get their fish," he said. "Which is a good thing to have people coming in and helping with the economy."
According to the city of Kenai's 2010 Dip Net Report, the city's profit from the 2010 dipnet season was over $100,000.