Okay, so we got through the first part of my dippin' education how I predict when fish will arrive; now for part two -
Techniques, Gear and Other Stuff
There are two main methodologies for scooping fresh sockeye from the ocean; from a boat and from the bank. Two totally different ways to do the same thing. Let's first hash out the details and preparation one must complete before attempting each. Now is the time that I make mention that there are a thousand ways to do just one thing and I do not have all the best ideas nor do I claim that what I do is going to work best for you. Once again, variables change the results. If you have more than one person, for instance, you may have a "system" down for catch, bonk, gill and clip tails. Or you may be like myself, gimped up; relatively stubborn and bring money to pay others to do the heavy work... whatever the case may be here are a few tips for preparing yourself for the 'dip trip.
Boating: although the regulations state that a 5' diameter hoop is allowed it is not advised for dipping from a boat. The shear mass of the net in the current can exhaust the dipper in no time flat and especially when the fish are running well and the dipper is active. There are varieties of all kinds from home made to manufactured for smaller nets and they all catch fish. I have had success with a home made net that is very light weight (3/8" solid aluminum for a hoop and lightweight concrete float handles) so I use my net for both shore and boat dipping. It's a square net but it works quite well for me. Now we get into the square vs. round dilemma; which one is best? A few things to consider first; how are you transporting your net? Is it in the back of a pickup or on top of your Suburu Forrester? If you have a square net (usually measures by what's called a "carpenters square" 3 feet by 4 feet will give you a 5 foot cross measurement) it can easily be manipulated to fasten to a roof rack, not to say that a round can't but the round shapes seem to be a bit tougher for packing/stowing. Also, if you are like myself, I stay in the water with my (shameless plug here) Kenai Keeper so that I don't have to make 65 trips to the shore and back into the water. I catch, bring the net to myself and bonk (just hard enough to take the fun out of the fish) and then rip the gills and thread them on my stringer to bleed them out. After about 30 fish are stacked up I gingerly float them to the shore and begin the task of clipping tails before stowing them in the cooler. Others have the surf journey and go through their own rituals of sometimes filleting the fish (that's a no-no by the way per the regs) before getting back into the drink to yard out another unsuspecting sockeye. I usually catch more fish than everyone because I don't lose precious time and energy by being on the beach; often times I can catch another fish while my net is in the water and I'm threading a fish onto the stringer or even before that when I'm pulling it out of the bag. Which brings me to my next point, the round hoops are a bit more challenging to retrieve fish from especially if they are in the middle of the webbing. My father-in-law (Kenai Keeper Jim on this forum) is the round net guy and I'm the square next to him. He usually catches more fish than I do (okay, he ALWAYS catches more than me) and this I've attributed to a voodoo hex of some sort that he had performed on his Mike's Magic Dipnet that he purchased years ago. I'm convinced that the hex was a necessary part of the purchase due to my mother-in-law vehemonently opposing the purchase... but back on point; he is taller than I and has a longer reach so the round works quite well for him. I would estimate that if you measured your reach into a dipnet that you could accurately tell if your going to be able to fetch your fish easily or you if you may end up getting soaked in the process. Which brings us to the next phase, clothing and accessories...
I'm not able to bring myself to purchase a survival suit; I'm sure that the once a year use would be valued but they are so expensive that I just can't bring myself to do it. However, THAT is the ONLY way that you are going to keep from getting wet if you dip from the shore. It seems, though, that it gives one an air of over confidence as I (and many others) have had to get ourselves wet to extend our dipnets to a floating hand that is wearing a dry suit or similar covering. It's an art to do what those guys do; and by "those guys" I mean the crazy animals that just grab a hoop (no handle) and FLOAT down in front of the rest of us that actually like to feel the ground beneath our feet. This is not a technique that I recommend to anyone. I've talked with a few of those guys and they are ex-Navy Seals and Coast Guard personnel; the tids, river current and bottom structure of the mouth are a tricky thing to negotiate so please take my advice and don't do it.
So for the clothing aspects, some people think that waders are optional - these hardy individuals are usually missing a few connections between their brain and nervous system or have consumed a hydraulic breakfast (beer, whiskey, vodka, paint thinner) and decide that the Kenai is plenty warm for them. I tend to disagree so I use the following; breathable waders (so you can layer up or down depending on temps), gauntlet gloves (this is important because when your elbows get wet and you reach up for any reason the water will drain down your sides and go directly to your feet and when you remove them it will magically dry up everywhere but your crotch giving others the illusion that you are too good for an outhouse), a hat of some sort (I'm going to start wearing goofy ones just for dipnetting, please feel free to join me) to protect you from the aerial assults from the bajillions of sea gulls looking for a snack, spare changes of everything you wear, and the ability to layer up or down for the schitzophrenic weather that Kenai and Kasilof seem to have.
Sunblock is a must. I recently found out that a dear friend of mine has Level II Melanoma one of the most serious and deadly skin cancers there are. If you don't know it is similar to smoking in that it can be prevented with some education and a habit of using sunblock when outdoors. She's at that fragile state right now being at a level 2, it's unknown as of yet if it's spread to her lymphatic system and we're praying for the best. If you're the praying type; her name is Becky Limberg and I say thanks in advance for your prayers to heal my friend. But moving along, we should also discuss your gear and a checklist to start off with. The checklist has been posted here many times and there's a lot of very interesting and important items to bring with you; please do a search to find those lists and pick/choose which ones will best fit your needs. My checklist is as follows:
Small Zip Ties
Sunblock (SPF 30, anything above really doesn't offer any more protection)
Wader repair kit
Tent/Sleeping Bag/Air Mattress - Battery Pump for Air Mattress
Gardening Shears for clipping tails
Permit and Sharpie (this must be filled out before leaving the beach)
Paper Towells/Hand Sanitizer
Large garbage bags (for wet clothes, waders, wading shoes)
$$$$$$$ for parking, fees and muscle
Ziplock bag for Wallet (yup, there's nothing worse than drying that sucker out and everything in it)
TP - You just never know if the potty can spare a square)
Wagon or sled (to pull your coolers/gear in case you don't want to pay someone else to do it like I do)
Well there ya have it, in a nutshell this is my way of doing dipping. I hope this helps some of you that interested in trying out the wonderful privledge of dipnetting.