Fish are a big part of our year-round effort to eat locally so when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced an emergency personal-use dipnet opening for Fish Creek, a small waterway just outside of Wasilla, I scrambled to get some gear together. The creek, 26 miles from our house, hadn’t been open for fishing since 1994.

Though I’ve covered dipnet fisheries in the past, it was my first time as a participant. The limit in Cook Inlet is seasonal and based on the size of your household. The family head is allotted 25 fish, with 10 for each additional family member, which meant we could take up to 55 fish (permits are only issued to Alaska residents).

Other rivers require different techniques, but dipnetting at Fish Creek is simple: stand on the bank with your net in the water and wait for a fish to run into it. Haul out fish. Repeat.

It’s also wildly popular. Hundreds of people turned out each day, giving the banks a festival atmosphere. It didn’t seem possible that any fish would be able to make it upstream with so many nets in the water but they did.

In about four hours over three days we hauled in 17 sockeye salmon. With the halibut and silver salmon we’ve already put up, that’s enough to get us through the winter.

[Fish Creek picture gallery.]