Filling the Freezer

Orange Rhymes WithThere exists a foolproof loophole in the standard of journalistic integrity that this column generally tries to live up to; fishing stories.

The beauty of a fishing story is that everyone wants to believe it so badly, that not only will spectators ignore the various inconsistencies, but will even go as far as to heckle anyone who dares question how you managed to haul in a world record catch yet somehow lack even the most basic evidence to prove it. It’s so absurd that even questioning a fishing story somehow makes you the bad guy, rather than the bold faced liar spewing nonsense about made-up sturgeon to impress the gullible crowd around him.

My point is that this weekend we went dip netting.

We left Anchorage like a bat out of hell to avoid what must have been a low-grade hurricane in hopes of snagging the last overpriced camp site on the Kenai Peninsula. The trip went without incident, excluding the extra 45 minutes we spent cruising past some sort of industrial fertilizer plants on the outskirts of Nikiski before we began to realize that nothing looked remotely familiar.

So we slept in a parking lot, made the early morning Safeway run like every other person on the Peninsula, and found a spot on the beach to leave the truck that hopefully wouldn’t end up submerged by the end of the day. (We later discovered that while my truck had survived, the godforsaken white Toyota behind us had made a valiant attempt at becoming a submersible.)

The entire concept of dip netting really is absurd. A group of hundreds of fisherman, who’s only job consists of standing in water, holding a net, and occasionally walking back to the beach to club dinner and throw it in a bag. Even more absurd is the fact that I don’t see everyone I know on the shore; especially because it’s a right reserved specifically for Alaskans and the hardest part is guessing which of your twenty five salmon you actually meant to keep.

All in all we spent eleven hours in the water, a fact backed up by the demonic red glow (and albino sunglasses outline) that emanated from my face for the following week; and came away with far more fish than we wanted to drag back across the beach in our coolers.

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Our gleeful exhaustion started to kick in about halfway through filleting the salmon, thus explaining why a few of them looked like we had taken a rusty chainsaw to a pile of highway meat. The German tourists next to us didn’t seem to mind however, as one of them kept asking to pose with a salmon carcass for a picture. At this point we made the questionable decision to drive all the way back to Hope at midnight to camp, which ultimately resulted in us sleeping in a soggy marsh, and me trying to eat black beans in the dark armed with nothing but a dull knife.

I won’t sugarcoat it; I spent way too much money on the trip. The sheer volume of gas we burned would have caused Al Gore to wake up screaming in the middle of the night for the next few months, and it didn’t help that my phone tried to swallow a vast quantity of ocean and quickly ceased to be a phone. However, there’s no price tag for Alaskan adventure, especially not when you come back with a cooler full of food that can help you avoid the nine months of ramen that await all college students.

Not every column has a central message or grand takeaway I wish to impart upon the masses. That being said, if you’re not dip netting, if it’s really too hard to stand chest deep in water with a net and occasionally return to the beach to fill the fish cooler and empty the beer cooler, if that isn’t up your alley; then you’re essentially squandering your Alaskan-ness. Honestly, there are scores of Texans and Montanans that would love to have the opportunity, don’t let another year pass you by without giving it a shot.

So as the final weeks of summer wind to a close and I finish blundering my way through my last summer class; I’ll be nursing a sunburn, eating an inordinate amount of salmon, and planning the next adventure.