The Bounty of July

By Steven Merritt


“Seventy-five fish.” The early-morning text needed no more explanation. I envisioned my friend Mike in his garage with coolers full of sockeye salmon, a pot of coffee, a fillet knife and the satisfaction of putting a winter’s worth of enjoyment in the freezer.

Mike’s success dipnetting with a colleague on the Copper River dovetails nicely with my time behind the iMac these days. The crew at Alaska magazine is working on the September issue—our annual food edition—which celebrates the importance of Alaskans’ connection with the land and water.

And for my family, early July means our dipnetting rite of summer on the Kenai River is close at hand. Sockeye salmon begin arriving in decent numbers there by mid-month, with the fishery’s peak usually coming a week or so later.

A family dipnetting haul from the Kenai River puts wild salmon on the menu year-round.

It’s a perk of being an Alaska resident that some might see as not quite their thing. Granted, standing in chest-deep water for sometimes hours on end holding an aluminum hoop strung with gillnet can be tedious, but all it takes is the bump and thump of a fish to get the blood flowing. We also net from a boat, which is less monotonous: the kids take the helm, while the adults handle nets, fish, and act as backseat drivers.

And the result? If you are fortunate enough, it means opening the freezer in January to see a salmon fillet that looks even better than the day it was caught.