Alaskan residents can “dip net” 25 salmon per family member. They stand waist deep where the rivers meet the ocean and the waves splash over their waders. Brrr! When the salmon run into their nets they drag them up the beach, conk them on the head, and clean them there on the sand. And they do this for days on end. They aren’t allowed to sell or even give away their catch—it’s only food for their own families, a long-time Alaskan tradition. The rest of us tourists use fish poles.
Whole families camp at the beach for salmon season. I shiver on my walk with jeans and a sweater while the Alaskan kids play happily in the sand in shorts and a tee-shirt, only stopping to help their parents conk the netted salmon.
During dip-netting season, salmon heads and egg sacks litter the beach, waiting for high tide to clean up the mess. It looks like whole-scale slaughter until you remember that it’s also a major food source for Alaskans, just like venison was for New Yorkers a generation ago. And those salmon are just running upstream to die anyway….after they lay their eggs and release their sperm.