Hooligan Fishing the Turnagain Arm
Last night Jess and I borrowed a net from Shoman and drove a few miles down the Seward Highway to the mouth of the 20 Mile River to try our luck at Hooligan fishing.
Hooligan are small ocean fish that swim up freshwater streams annually to give birth and die. Starting in April these fish (also called Smelt or Candlefish) make a run from the Pacific Ocean up the Turnagain Arm presumably attempting to avoid the many wading anglers waiting with nets and beers in hand.
Hooligan, I’ve been told, taste oily and sardine-like, fancied by only the bravest of eaters. As it turns out, foodies Mark and Shoman enjoy them with a mixture of cucumber sauce and Asian poison ivy. I know! They got the crazies. Nevertheless we were happy to promise a bucket of fish in exchange for the equipment and embarked on our first fishing experience in Alaska.
As far as I could glean the proper technique involves thrusting a net to its fullest length upstream and allowing it to move with the current, keeping the mouth open and allowing fish to swim in. After a few dozen failed attempts we moved to deeper water and just like that, our first Hooligan was relieved of the remainder of its death march.
After fish #1 Jess and I began swapping the net until our goal of 10 was reached. Homegirl was a natural, snagging the record for largest fish, fewest scoops and dirtiest boots. It was a cool experience, one we’ll happily repeat should Shoman get the craving…