So you are going to try and dipnet? Be prepared for the following....
1. Giddy laughter
2. Slimy waders/jacket/gloves/hands/cooler/everything else
3. Ripped dipnet
4. Sand in every place on the body
5. Being hungry
6. Being thirsty
7. Being grossed out by outhouses after being hungry/thirsty
8. Keeping your fish cool until processing
9. Keeping your cool until fish processing
10. Timing the catchable dates/forecasting
11. A lot of hard work after catching your fish
So it starts like this; you and your family/friends need to make a plan of action. Get your gear together and be prepared to go once the numbers show that you can bring home a cooler full (or better yet, a permit full) of fish. Have your gear on standby so that all you have to do is load it up.
You will need:
Small zip ties for holes in your net
BLOCK ice (it doesn't melt as fast)
CUBED ice (sprinkle on top of a full cooler)
Spare changes of clothes (appropriate for how long you intend to stay)
Cash for incidentals and parking (I take about $100 in mixed 5's and 20's)
You may want to have:
Cooler of food/beverages
Firewood (not a lot available on the beaches)
Folding Table(s) For cleaning fish
Plywood with nail through it for cleaning fish (Use the nail to plop the fish head on and it stays still while you gut/clip tails)
Spare dipnet bag with twine to re-bag a thrashed net (in the event you get a massive king; it will TRASH your net)
Now a couple of things you should know about forecasting:
The OTF index (off shore test fishery) is located around Anchor Point which is approximately 60-70 miles south of the mouths of the Kenai/Kasilof rivers. It takes some time for the fish to swim up from there but mother nature helps out with south winds at times. When she changes her mind and direction from south to westerly winds after a few days of high OTF counts; you can bank on having a good day dipping. The reason is because of of the surface currents created. You have to give the fish about 4 days or so before they are in position to be "blown" into the river mouths. The final portion of the forecasting technique is to pay attention to the commercial openers. This is the most volatile part of the guessing game because F&G releases the beasts at a whim and moments notice most of the time. The number to keep up with this information (along with escapement data) is 907-262-9611. Its a recorded hotline (I have on speed dial on my cell) and it is a very handy tool when used in conjunction with www.wunderground.com to gauge the weather forecast.
Now that prediction (step one) is out of the way; get ready! Be on call and have your gear "turn-key" when its time to roll out. June 25th is when the Kasilof opens - its an 24 hour fishery. July 10th is when the Kenai opens (its a restricted hour fishery closed from 11pm to 6am. Track escapement data and try to do your own run timing guess work by researching ADF&G's website. (http://www.sf.adfg.state.ak.us/FishCounts/)
If you are dipping from shore save yourself a bunch of hassle and either pick up a Kenai Keeper from most sporting goods stores (sans the box stores), or manufacture something of your own. The technique is simple; hold your net out, wait for fish to catch you completely off guard and shove the back and forth several times to catch the fins/gills good in the bag. Pull the net to you and smack it a good on on the mellon. DO NOT GO FOR A KILL SHOT AT THIS STAGE. It's important to keep your fish quality as good as possible so just take the fun out of it and then debag the fish and thread on your stringer belt and only after its strung do you rip the gills with a twist of your finger to bleed it out (much better tasting fish this way); thus saving your the hassle of fighting the surf and keeping your spot in the water. Once your stringer is full, you can wow your dip-mates into believing that you are a fish god of some sort and drag your 30-or-so fish to the bank and begin cleaning.
And now on to cleaning;
I only clip tails, head/gut the fish. You will see others filleting on the beach and it makes me want to throw up when I see it. Not because it's illegal or against the rules (which it is) but because their catch is going to be all fishy and gnarly when they get home; fillets soaking in fish slime makes a very fishy foul flesh. I clip tails (gotta do that before throwing in the cooler) then head/gut them. I wait until I get home to set up a good processing area where I have a setup of knives, trash bags/cans, beverages, vacuum sealer and towels to dab them dry once filleted and rinsed. My fish is always very tasty and this method has worked extremely well for me. Do it how ya like though.... we all have different methods.
There you have it in a nutshell, your basics to start with and the rest is up to you to figure out. The one piece of advice that I can give that is probably the most valuable is go with someone experienced first and then try it on your own. That way you will have a rough idea of what to expect and maybe put your own spin on things.
Good luck dear newbie, you will be "hooked" on dipnetting from the very first sockeye that tries to take the net out of your hands. )