Skip to main content

Family Fun Dip Net Fishing in Alaska-the Annual Frontier Fishing Adventure

Barb has lived, worked and played in Alaska for over 40 years. "It's a dream come true life few get to experience."

Let's go dip net fishing in Alaska. Dip net fishing on Klickitat River Courtesy Ryan Hagerty at

Let's go dip net fishing in Alaska. Dip net fishing on Klickitat River Courtesy Ryan Hagerty at

Let's Go Dip-netting!

Around May of each year or earlier fishing enthusiasts of the Alaskan kind, begin preparations for an annual migration from around the state to the Kenai Peninsula’s Kenai River in Alaska. They look forward to it like kids look forward to the end of school every year. They travel in mass or so it would seem to onlooking tourists arriving in the month of July. They resemble a huge mixed caravan of mission oriented crazed people headed somewhere. They’re headed to the beach at the Kenai River. They’ll enjoy the beach yes, but the main reason they crowd to this particular beach and waterway is for the dip-netting season. All the anticipation leads up to The City of Kenai opening the personal use fisheries on the Kenai River on July 10th every summer running through the end of July. Many believe it to be the best spot in the state. The dip-netting adventure commences yielding harvests of succulent salmon varieties and memories enough to last years, for others a lifetime.

For Alaskans Only

By law, only those who are residents of the state of Alaska can dip net fish in Alaskan waterways. It’s the most looked forward to fishing venue for Alaskan families and it’s a great way for everyone to stock up on healthy salmon at least for a little while. It won’t feed you all year long,although some manage to ration it out that long. Still it’s a wonderfully delicious addition to any salmon lover’s table.

Family Fun For Alaskans

Their men go and their wives, children and babies too. They pack up their RVs, pickup trucks, fifth Wheels or whatever they choose to travel in with various lengths of dipnets, coolers, miscellaneous provisions and other supplies and of course with enough food to last.

In Alaska fishing equals family fun and family fun usually means fishing fun. However one wants to describe it, this is fishing in Alaska. It’s one of the things Alaskans do for enjoyment. Being able to pack their freezers full of fish is a great side benefit, but just like entire families flock to Disneyland or Disney world, beaches,carnivals and other amusement venues, Alaskans swarm to the rivers to fish. The simplest and most rewarding activities for Alaskans are right at home. Dip netting is one of those activities that can amuse and satisfy for years to come. Dip netting, just like fishing in Alaska, is one of Alaskan resident’s favorite pastimes for family fun adventure and good eats too. They do say that some of the simplest and cheapest things in life don’t have to cost a fortune. It’s true in Alaska.

Now of course just like any other hobbyist or sports fanatic, I mean enthusiast, there are always those who go all out and spare no expense at all to make it the absolute adventure of all time. They not only aim to one-up their neighbors, but even outdo themselves; each experience being more elaborate than the last. There are some of those in every family and community. What would our families be without them? So if you really want to do things up right and spare no cost, look for and talk to these folks. They shouldn't be hard to find. Just look for those folks who have have packed everything including the kitchen sink.

What Kind of Fish Can I Catch?

What kind of fish can you catch dip netting? Usually Salmon varieties such as Silvers, Cohoes and Sockeye find their way into personal dip nets, but it's not uncommon to pick up rainbow trout, flounders and a few hooligans as well.

Legal dipnet size in Alaska for personal use fisheries. Courtesy

Legal dipnet size in Alaska for personal use fisheries. Courtesy

What Type of Net?

What type of net are we talking about here? Surely it's not the same nets commercial fishermen use. You're right. The short version is a net on a fairly long pole, of varying lengths, some longer and more heavy duty than others. Usually folks start with one that's about 4 feet long but not longer than 5 feet due to legal restrictions. That's long enough for most dip net fishing. You'll learn as you go and what works for you and what doesn't. The main thing here is to stick with what's comfortable and safe for you to handle. If you can barely hold the pole because it's too long that's a clue that you need to go shorter, so again, pay attention to what works for you not your buddy.

Scroll to Continue
Alaska dipnetting expenses. Be sure to ask where to buy an Alaskan dip net.  The one in this photo won't work for Alaskan Salmon and other common Alaskan fish.  Photo Courtesy of Matthew Hull at

Alaska dipnetting expenses. Be sure to ask where to buy an Alaskan dip net. The one in this photo won't work for Alaskan Salmon and other common Alaskan fish. Photo Courtesy of Matthew Hull at

Dip netting Expenses

A sports fishing license for Alaskans, cost $24.00 in 2015. Some Alaskans purchase their fishing, hunting and trapping license in a combo for a small price break and just to get it out of the way and not wait to the last minute.

Then there are the gas costs of traveling to the Kenai Peninsula if you live in another part of the state. Depending on how you plan on dip netting, there are various fees whether you come in at the Spruce Street gate or boat launch entrance further down. The fees for dip netting on the Kenai River are mainly for parking. There are fees for day parking only,overnight parking, camping boat launch and parking.

Essential Dip netting Supplies

Waders, bib waders whichever you prefer. Some fore go full waders for thigh high rubber boots. Fillet knives if you plan on cleaning, gutting and/or cooking any of your catch on on-site or on the beach. Heavy-duty scissors to cut both corners of the tail fins as "Required by Alaska law". Sunscreen lotion Heavy duty rubber gloves, Band aids, alcohol, first aid kit, Cooler to keep your dip net fishing catch on ice.

How To Dip net

It’s pretty simple to dip net, although I almost feel like I need to write a disclaimer because dip netting like all fishing whether in Alaska or Timbuktu is personal. So with that said, walk yourself and your dip net down to the beach into the water up to your torso. Find a spot where you think you’ll feel comfortable standing. Keep your dip net straight out in front of you, get a comfortable grip on your pole, be careful not to lock your knees and wait for the fish to show up. When you feel a tug, it usually means a salmon is in your net. If you’re quick and paying attention, you should immediately turn the net to the left or right (your preference) to close off the opening and pull the net out of the water as quick as you can while running at the same time out of the water. If you still have your catch in the net once you’re out of the water, that’s one down, number one fish on your table. Right? Yes, that’s pretty much it. Most folks then bong it on the head with a billy club, clip the fins and put the fish on ice. The process may not go quickly. Just be patient. You may have to wait quite a while depending on how the fish are running, standing waist to chest-deep in the river with other dip netting enthusiasts, but that doesn't seem to deter the literally thousands of residents that line the beach almost elbow to elbow very similar to combat fishing to catch as much as they can not to exceed the annual personal use fishery limit. They know it's worth the wait.

What Are The Catch Quotas?

What is the daily quota? There are no daily catch quotas per se but a firm annual limit of 25 salmon and 10 flounder for the sports fishing license holder and 10 salmon for each additional household member. And though folks attempt to cheat the system every year, these limits are combined limits from the fisheries your catch came from. And the license holder has to make up their mind which group of fisheries they plan on fishing in. Switching back and forth all over the state isn't acceptable. Fish and wildlife record keeping and compliance is tough enough anywhere in the world so just following the dip netting rules is a civic duty that's well appreciated by those tasked with it.

Alaskan Rivers To Dip net

The Kenai River isn't the only Alaskan river where dip netting is done. With 3000 rivers to boast about statewide, Alaskans have more than enough rivers to choose from. The popular ones are: Russian River, Kasilof River,Cooper River,Chitina River and the Klickitat River.

Helpful Dip netting Tips

Even if you don't dip net in Alaska, these few tips can help everyone giving dip netting a try. Try your best to get a good night's sleep. It goes a long way in helping you to withstand the long standing. Even after each days adventure, try to go to bed or climb in your sleeping bag early so you can be fresh in the morning.

Check the tides before you head out. My first time out we got the tides of two rivers mixed up and it cost us a half a day of good dip netting. We arrived on the river of Kasilof beach only to discover that the tide was way down and the beach was a messy pond of muck.

Wear ice gripper springs that we use for snow and ice, over your boots or shoes. I discovered the usefulness of this while I was getting up from the muck in the low-tide of the Kasilof River one year. I was wearing an old pair of winter shoe boots with the springy ice grippers slipped over them. I was so delighted. It worked like a charm. It won’t save you from the quick sand like mud flaps, but it’ll help you stay on your feet in mucky river waters of Alaska while having a gloriously fun time dip netting.

Related Articles