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…


3 responses

  1. poppy

    scotty … it doesnt take a brave sole at all to eat smelt. i usesta eat’m like it was my job as a child. cut dare heads off n cut dare belly open down to dare butt n run yer thumb down dare insides n all dare guts come out. rollem in flower n fry inna hot pan w/oil. small ones u can eat da backbone n all, bigger ones u peal da backbone out afta cooking.

    May 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm

  2. Ted Wotring

    Good job guys! Man what I wouldn’t give for a good mess of fresh smelt. FYI, the best time to catch them is at night.

    They are one of the tastiest little morsels that you can sink a tooth into. After you eat a few you will be back out for more.

    I can remember smelt fishing all night and returning at dawn with 3 or 4 garbage can’s (clean ones) full of smelt. All I wanted to do was go to sleep but dad said…now its time to clean’em.

    Unkie Ted

    May 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

  3. Jerry Harris


    Just a quick note to let you know I’ve really enjoyed all the posts. I do hope you will continue the updates…..Hope you guys continue to enjoy what looks like the adventure of a lifetime. Take care.

    Jerry Harris

    May 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm

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