“We’re going to be safe, use good judgement, and we’re not going to die today!”  Looking each other in the eyes, these were our last words as we headed out fishing.

Part 1          Part 2

The Copper River is a 286 mile swift moving glacial fed river that produces some of the best tasting salmon in the world.  There’s an inherent amount of risk when doing anything in Alaska, let alone dipnetting the Copper River.

This was our first time to the Copper.  We ‘d heard stories and seen videos of Alaskans precariously hanging off cliffs, but today was the day we were going to see what all the hype was about.

We were loaded up and our goal was to take the ATV down the canyon and find a place to fish.  The O’Brien Creek Trail is what’s left of the old rail road that serviced the Kennecott Mine.  The beautiful views take nothing away from the fact that your driving on a narrow trail hundreds of feet above a raging river.

The trail isn’t that bad, if it wasn’t for the drop.  I would not think twice about driving our ATV over that terrain if it wasn’t for that little detail, the drop.  95% of the trail is great, there are just a few rock slide areas where it’s a little too narrow for a side x side ATV.  Unfortunately, when you reach one of those spots it’s too late to safely back up, leaving no other option but to proceed forward.

After a couple of these slide areas we reminded each other of what we said when we were leaving camp, “We’re going to be safe, use good judgement, and we’re not going to die today!”  Needless to say, we turned around and headed back out.

In case you didn’t know Rebecca is deathly afraid of heights, especially if she’s not driving and on the river side of the cliff looking down (if you’re on the mountain side you can jump out of the ATV if it starts going off the cliff, if you’re on the river side you’re screwed).

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With Rebecca opting to walk through certain sections she was able to take pictures.

We decided to try fishing off the beach at the beginning of the trail.

O'Brien Creek, a popular dipnetting area.
O’Brien Creek, a popular dipnetting area.

We found a nice eddy at the end of the beach and put the nets out.  It was a nice day, there were only two other guys fishing in our little area.  The catching started our really slow, we only caught 2 fish in the first hour.

Wearing the life jacket for safety.
Wearing the life jacket for safety.

We had our net pushed right to the edge of the eddy, but fish kept hitting and swimming between our legs.   It only took this happening a few times before we backed up and put our net where our legs were.  Fish on, or actually in!  We started catching fish like a well oiled machine.  Fortunately, we brought two nets.  By the time one person was done bonking and untangling one fish from the net, the other had caught another fish.  We went back and forth like this for a little over an hour and caught 16 fish.

The days catch.
The days’ catch.

We had a fair amount of salmon already in the freezer at home so we decided this was enough.  This trip was more about learning and the experience, catching fish was just a nice bonus.

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If it looks like I’m in pain it’s because my knees and back were killing me from kneeling on the rocks.

 

Our work is done, time to head back to camp.
Our work is done, time to head back to camp.

This was a wonderful trip, we walked away with great memories and 50# of the best tasting salmon fillets in the world.  Next year we’re going to take Hem’s Charter Service down the canyon and get dropped off in a private location.

Have you been dipnetting in Chitina?  Please feel free to add a comment below!

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