Matt and Marilyn are holding 44 pound Kings. Randy is holding a 20 pound King and a halibut (maybe 15 pounds?)
The boys have an anatomy lesson in fish guts.
Dip Netting 101.
Yesterday we all went up to Kenai to join the Michaels (Anchorage Wises) for dip netting. This is where the Kenai River Reds who are spawning go to die. So the state lets families dip net for fish. It's called subsistance fishing. The head of the household is allowed to take 25 fish for him or herself and 10 fish per dependent. So we could have brought home 65 fish yesterday. We brought home 32. We left 6 with the Michaels since they did half the work and loaned us the nets. They had already harvested 35 fish during the morning tide! Michael said they had a fish in the net every two minutes. They were basically just running in and out of the water for an hour or two.
Okay, here is a primer on dip netting for the nonfishing blogger fans. Don't read on if you are a Vegan. I usually get very bored following a two year old around for hours, but when you are not at home and looking at things through blogger eyes, everything becomes very interesting. Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead so you will have to use your imagination. Maybe I'll come back another day for the photos but it's a 80 mile drive one way from Homer to Kenai so I won't make any promises.
First, the equipment. Most people wear chest waders (rubber or neoprine overalls with boots attached) and rain slickers. But there were all kinds of fashion statements on the beach yesterday. One lady was wearing a rain poncho like the kind they wear in Vietnam while riding their scooters. Another lady was wearing a giant garbage bag with holes cut out for her head and arms, and a string around her waist to keep it snug. One girl was out in the water up to her neck wearing nothing but shorts and a tank top. I guess some people are missing cold receptors in their genetic make-up. People do surf in Alaska in full wet suits except for my friend Falcom who is missing those cold receptors. He body surfs in shorts.
Anyway, back to dipnetting. You need a very large net attached to a very long pole, 6 to 12 feet long. Some people attach an empty milk jug or bottle of detergent to part of their net to keep it in an upright position. Then there's the fish whacker. You need something to kill or knock the fish unconscious so they don't flop around on the beach and wiggle back to the water. Most people have a professional fish bonker that looks like a miniature wooden baseball bat. Maya was all over that! She must have thought: "cool, they do make bats in my size!" If you are an intense animal activist, skip the next part and just scroll down to the adorable movie clip of Maya playing baseball.
Okay, so then there's the fish bonking. If you don't own a mini baseball bat, you can use a 2 x 2, the bottom leg off an old pair of crutches (I wonder if the rubber tip makes it hurt less for the fish?), or the broad side on an ax. I kind of like the ax because you can cut the head off with the other side. But the old Asian guy with the ax never did, he used a fillet knife. Use your imagination blogger friends, these are just a few of the things I saw on the beach.
Then you need garbage bags or coolers to put your fish in. Some people bring a child's plastic sled down to the beach so they can drag their cooler back up to their truck because the coolers become very heavy once filled with fish. My favorite inventive use of a household object was the ironing board one lady was using to fillet her fish right there on the beach. It was very ergonomically correct and a much better use of an ironing board if you are allergic to ironing like me!
Finally, the people, always the most interesting part. There were the typical Alaskan Rednecks (in Alaska Redneck is not an insult, it's an ethnic group. They actually have it on our forms. You can check Native Alaskan, Asian, African-American, Hispanic or Redneck. Just kidding.). There were petite Native Alaskan and giant Samoans. We have a large Samoan population in Anchorage. There were a few Asians and even fewer African-Americans, who are unfortunately, the least populous in Alaska. I can't figure out why all these Asians would move to such a cold climate, but I digress...
My favorite dip netter was an older Native Alaskan woman who was out there braving the waves with the best of them. She had a perfectly round, very brown face and the whitest teeth I have ever seen. The reason I know that is because she was smiling the entire time. It was so beautiful to see. I wanted to bottle her joy and market it as the next best antidepressant. I have to admit I prefer beautiful old women with white teeth over black teeth.
And to complete the scene in your mind, you have to add gulls. Lots and lots of gulls, like Hitchcock numbers. Yesterday I wondered how come "Hitchcockian" never caught on like "Freudian"? Anyway, the gulls are there to eat the leavings. There are hundreds of fish heads all over the beach, most of them with their eyes gone. The gulls also eat the guts and the carcasses but their favorite part is the roe. Their second favorite part is the milt. I like how my brother in law calls it "the opposite of eggs" because he's too prudish to say "sperm". I love teasing him, he's so easy to embarass. I can't believe he's related to my husband sometimes.
In residency, Matt was voted "most innappropriate". It was said that he could say the most innappropriate things at the most innappropriate times and with the most innappropriate volume. He is also one of the kindest, most compassionate physicians you'll ever meet. There are elderly people who have moved to Alaska because he took care of them in the ER while they were here on vacation once!
Okay, that's everything I know about dipnetting. My poor husband is outside filleting 32 fish while I blog. That's okay, I'll help him smoke and can them over the next few days. One of these days I'll go out to Anchor point to document the "Tractor Factor". It's some kind of giant thing that launches your boat into the water. I can't picture that at all so I'll have to make sure my camera is fully charged when we go on location.
Here's the video of Maya I promised you. I was pitching to her and then I realized that she now runs to first base after she swings! By the way, she loved dipnetting. It was all I could do to keep her out of the water. She also discovered the joy of chasing birds. She also enjoyed walking Trevor around on a retractable lease. Now if only I could teach Trevor to be a nanny...