Hundreds of people hit the banks of Fish Creek for the first day of dip netting on Friday.

Chris McGinty and his son woke up at 4 a.m. to get their boat to the mouth of the creek for the fishery’s opening at six.

“We started catching fish left and right, my son pulled two in at a time, then he pulled another two in at a time,” McGinty said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s online count shows the reds started running a little later this year. Biologists initially thought they could open the fishery on Saturday.

Then, Fish Creek lived up to its name with a surge of more than 22,000 fish in just two days.

“These fish are notorious for coming in fast and furious at the end of July,” said Assistant Area Management Biologist Samantha Oslund.

Fish and Game used to have an escapement goal of 50,000 sockeye. In the last few years, that’s been lowered to between 15,000 and 45,000 reds.

That means there’s a lower threshold to open for dip netting depending on when the fish arrive and how strong the run is.

“It’s so fun for us to open the fishery to provide opportunities for families to get out and dip net,” Oslund said. “Find their meat for the fall and have really good food for the winter.”

Boaters had the upper hand at low tide and were slaying salmon in no time. People on the banks had to battle the mud before they could get their nets in the water. The thick silt quickly caused clothing casualties.

“People are falling and getting stuck and you can’t get your boots out so it was pretty much smarter to abandon all waders and go in in your clothes and barefoot so you can get back out,” said Sherese Miller. “Embrace it truly, we’re all mud rats out here today.”

Fish Creek is the only personal use dip net fishery in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys and folks love that it’s close to home.

“You don’t have to drive and deal with the crowds and traffic,” McGinty, who lives in Wasilla, said. “I usually don’t go to Kenai or Kasilof because it’s so far away. This is in my back yard.”

That backyard is expected to be busy as people flock to fill their freezers before the fishery closes on Thursday, July 31.

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