Howard Delo

By the time this column sees print, the Fish Creek personal use fishery will be over. In my opinion, this year’s fishery was a good one, even though I, personally, didn’t net a fish.

A decade or so ago, when this fishery was resuming after a long absence, and not many people fished it, my wife and I discovered a nice hole upstream from the bridge. Nobody else was fishing that section of creek. After maneuvering into position, we spotted several sockeye resting in the hole. My wife set her net on the downstream side and I swept the hole from the upstream side down.

We worked the hole for a few minutes and had all the fish we wanted for the year, something like 25 to 30 smallish reds. That was our big year at Fish Creek.

Since then, people have “discovered” this fishery and the number of dip-netting participants has grown every year it’s been open. We would drive down to see what was going on and usually leave without taking our gear out of the truck because of the crowds.

The first time I drove to Fish Creek this year, I didn’t take out my gear. There were more vehicles parked on both sides of the creek than I had ever seen there before. The day was sunny and bright, and the high tide timing was perfect. It seemed that half of Wasilla had also figured the timing out and decided to try dipping.

My last visit this year started out with maybe three-quarters of the number of vehicles as before. About three hours before high tide, I unloaded my gear and went upstream, watching for fish swimming in the clear water. After reaching high tide with no activity, I left. The vehicle count had climbed to more than my first visit. I’m not sure I’ll be visiting this dip-net fishery in the future because of the crowds.

The publicly accessible area where one can legally fish along the creek is quite small. I’m sure there was significant trespassing going on in the early days. Folks have learned to stay in the creek, either walking or using some sort of small watercraft, so the trespassing problem has been significantly reduced.

Almost everybody goes downstream toward the mouth of Fish Creek to dipnet anymore. I don’t have a small boat I would use there, so my options are limited. In my two visits this year, I chatted with a few returning boating dippers asking how the fishing was. Two guys sharing a kayak reported catching 25 fish between them. Another group replied that the fishing was “great.” Another group reporting fishing was “really great.” A fourth boat said they only caught maybe a half-dozen fish, but they had a good time.

On my last visit, as I was coming back across the creek and getting ready to drop my gear at the truck, a gentleman walked down to the edge of the water and was looking around. As I came out of the water, the guy told me he had never fished this creek and was wondering how to do things.

I told him the first thing he needed was a small boat, inflatable raft, canoe, or kayak so he could access the creek closer to the mouth. The area around the creek mouth is quite muddy and is a mess to deal with without a watercraft of some sort. Next, he needed to watch the tides and, generally, try to fish the two- to three-hour period on the incoming high tide. He also needed to be comfortable working in a crowd.

I noticed that most folks fished dip nets like those used on the Kenai. I bought a net years ago that I used when I would go out to Chitna and dip on the Copper River. It has a black frame and shaft color and black seine twine for the bag. It worked great in the silty waters of the Copper River, but the dark mesh was very visible in the clearer Kenai River waters.

After I started going to the Kenai, I used the Chitna net for a while, but the dark frame and net mesh seemed to spook fish. I bought another net with a silver colored frame and handle and a monofilament mesh bag that was not as visible. I found a shorter handled regular landing net a couple of years ago at a garage sale for $10 that I’ve been taking to Fish Creek.

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