How To Dipnet For Salmon On The Kuskokwim River

Jul 8, 2020

Felix Patrick pulls a chum out of the Yukon with a Kenai style dip net.
Credit Kyle Clayton / KYUK

The entire Kuskokwim River mainstem opened to gillnets on July 7. Gillnets are the dominant gear to harvest salmon on the Kuskokwim. But in recent years, as restrictions on gillnets have increased, some lower river fishermen have begun experimenting with dipnets to harvest salmon. One of those fishermen is Bethel resident, Aaron Moses. He’s turned dipnetting into a summer pursuit and has begun teaching others how to use this method as well.

The Bethel Orutsararmiut Native Council is renting dip nets for free to anyone interested in trying them out. Call 907-543-2608 to get started.


When a fish hits that dipnet there's just a rush. That anticipation of when a fish hits is what's been really fun.

This year's dip netting has been probably the best that I've ever had on the Kuskokwim. Because I've been dipnetting for the last two or three years trying to figure out where to go and how to do it, watching a lot of Kenai videos on YouTube. But this year, I was able to catch around 10 fish per trip. So it's been pretty good this year. Normally, it's about two and a half hours.

While we were trying to learn how to dip et in the past, we'd be out for four or five hours and catching one fish. So it's been getting a lot easier and still trying to learn the Kuskokwim and places where fish are most likely to be for easy access to dipnetting,

Dipnetting has just been this been a curiosity of mine. I knew it could work this time to figure out where and at what times is the best. For me, it's more of an enjoyment of being out on the river and fishing. And catching something is just a bonus.

A lot of trial and error, basically. I know a lot of people are just starting trying to dipnet and it takes a while to learn. So just drift down in long stretches right next to sandbars and drifting pretty close to shore, because a lot of the sockeye are pretty bank-oriented. So they're really close to shore ,between four and 10 feet of water, and drifting in that area is pretty much the best bet to get something. And from what I've been finding is there's a certain depth at which you catch a lot more fish than others, like probably about six to eight feet down under the water has been pretty productive for me.

When the tide is going out is the best. What I found out is if you're doing it using rope and a little bit of boat power pretty much anytime during the tides has been pretty good.

From what I've learned from watching YouTube videos on the Yukon fishing, is [to dipnet] right behind points, because the salmon have to go around that point. So it's kind of a little bit of a choke points to have better success. Like at the head of Joe Pete at the end of the island it sticks out. Those fish usually have to go around that so I've done okay, up there, at Joe Pete.

Anytime there's a place like an eddy, somewhere where water is slower, where the fish hold up to rest or have easier swimming to go up river has been probably the best places to fish.

The wind has a big factor on dipnetting on the river, because that wind pushes the boat and sometimes you have to have the dipnet on one side, because it's impossible to drive if there's a strong wind. When it's less windy, it's a lot easier to control the boat and have a dipnet in at the same time.

The way I learned it from people that fish on the Kenai is tying a rope to the base of the pole to the front of the boat. And then when you're in power, the boat is holding all that pressure while you're going down river. And so you're actually going a little bit faster than the current going heading down river. And so that's my personal preference, and I've been I've been pretty successful this year doing that.

With all these sockeye passing through right now, it's a lot of fun.