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How do you fish in a river full of glacial silt? The easy way (if you're an Alaskan resident) is to drop in a dipnet. You may see people fishing below the Copper River Bridge, holding a wide net at the end of a long pole. Regulations vary year to year, but it's typical for residents feeding their families with salmon to be permitted anywhere from 35 to 100 fish a year. It's illegal to sell any of your catch, although bartering is a thriving black market. The size of your potential catch depends upon where you live, the size of the family, and other variables.
There are several salmon runs that come up the Copper River. It's estimated that each year two million salmon travel up the river to reach their spawning grounds. The King Salmon come earliest in late spring and are usually gone by mid-June. These are the monsters. Then the red salmon and silver salmon take over the show, with runs coming and going from June through mid-to-late September.
After crossing the Copper River Bridge, take a sharp left and you can park within easy walking distance of the river. Here you'll see Alaskan Native fishing wheels at work. This method is even easier than using a dipnet, since you can leave and check in later. The river current keeps the baskets turning, with salmon swimming into the net before being dropped into a collection pen located on the upriver side of the fish wheel. You may be able to see salmon in the baskets, although it may require a fisherman's patience. Salmon tend to come through in waves, with an hour of nothing in the basket being followed by an hour with 50 salmon being caught.
Because there is no physical presence required, you may or may not get to see people processing salmon or pulling them from the baskets. Please be respectful of people's space and don't offer to buy salmon as it's against the law and tradition.