Analogue Grocery Shopping

Shopping at the food co-op might be hip, but you’re not really “analogue” unless you stick a net directly into an Alaskan river and pull fresh sockeye salmon out of the water to fill your freezer with.

Most of my crew went dipnetting (the partner and I, plus four of the five kiddos) on the Kasilof river this weekend and hauled some “reds” out to sustain us through the winter. Dipnetting involves standing waist-deep in the mouth of the river, sticking out a ten-foot pole with a five-foot hoop net on the end of it, and waiting for a fish to swim in. At that point, you trap the fish into the net and try to get back to the shore with it before it escapes.

The teenager posing with her dipnetting haul

Dipnetting is not sport or commercial fishing — it’s for subsistence, which means you eat what you catch. For indigenous people of Alaska, salmon isn’t a gourmet luxury, it’s a staple. Although my family isn’t Native, we are trying to stock the freezer with enough fish to last us until next year — every fish we catch is one less meal we have to buy from the supermarket. For our family of seven, this means a lot of fish! We “only” got 8 this weekend, but our family limit is 85 so we’ve got a way to go, and we’ll be back at it next weekend.

The silver lining is that I only had 8 fish to process — which I’m terrible at. I was up until 1 a.m. last night bagging up fish meat in the back yard. I can’t imagine how it would be if we had actually caught 85! I’m getting pretty good at gutting and cleaning the fish but, honestly, my fillet skills are seriously lacking. I’m pretty sure my toddlers could do a better job with a pair of preschool scissors.

Hopefully we’ll have a better haul this weekend and I’ll get more practice in.