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Thread: Is the Kenai more crowded?

  1. #1
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    Question Is the Kenai more crowded?

    In today's Peninsula Clarion's Voices of the State column, Bob Penny claims that ADF&G graphs show that the Kenai River has no more boats and that there is not more crowding now than in the 1980s and '90s.

    Is this true? If so, why all the current fuss about too many boats and overcrowding?

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    Default

    That is what the data shows.

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    Default crowding-

    I've been fishing the lower river during King season for quite some time and from my own observations it appeared to be much more crowded the last two weeks of July last summer (2006) then it was in 2005. The number of guides has increased so the number of anglers and boats has increased on the lower river. Even with guides fishing "Virgin Territory" below the Cow Pastures (The Cunningham Park area used to be commonly fished from boats in the early years of the Kenai fishery but fell out of favor until recently) the usual holes on the lower river- crossover, mud island, beaver creek, eagle rock, pillars, were more crowded then last year even with a huge chunk of guide boats fishing down river.

    Question- Does the 50 increase include a ban on two stroke engines in the future? Nobody is talking about that and a majority of Kenai River users will be totally cut-out of the fishery. I love fishing the river and have been doing it since I was a kid. I simply cannot afford the upgrade to the fourstroke. Even with the buy-back program my 2 stroke is worth more then a grand and should last me for about 10 more years. Guys like Penny need to think about the little guys, his neighbors in Soldotna and Kenai, who will be cut out of the fishery.

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    Wink Give it another shot. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by yukon View Post
    That is what the data shows.
    Now, yukon, that's not what I asked. We all know the old adage that while figures don't lie, . . . well, you know the rest.

    If you have any experience on the Kenai over that span of years, what's your answer to my question?

    John Nelson
    Soldotna

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    Default I was told the same thing

    by a DEC rep......

    Kind of makes you wonder what the BETEX levels were back then when ALL you had were 2 strokers....and how the river (and fish) have managed to survive....

    Sorry ....I keep going back the fact that our limit is 10 times more stringent than the next closest state (Oregon) and is exceeded on only a handful of days (actually partial days) during the year.....

    gotta love the environmental industry........ (of which I am and have been a proud and profitable part *LOL*)

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    I read the original post while talking on the phone with a long time Kenai fisherman and guide. He felt it is actually less crowded now than 20 years ago but he did note that the area of concentration has changed. He remembers a lot more people fishing fishing the upper bluffs and stewarts and big eddy and now you hardly see anyone there after the first few hours of the day. He felt more of the effort is being directed in the tide water than it was years ago.
    In my 10 years on the water, the first 3 of those mainly fishing above bings, I have seen the pressure up there go from 10-12 guide boats daily to 2 boats daily.
    In the last 2 years the pastures was loaded with boats and now it is not as full now that more boats are fishing from Cunningham Park down to and past the Warren Ames Bridge, I caught my first king below the bridge last year.
    I drive up the river mid day and there is often only 3 to 6 boats at the cross over about the same at Mud Island, and not a whole lot in holes up to Porters.
    June effort is way down from my experiences.

    This is one of the reasons I have don't think we have a crowding problem, yes, there are a few days in July when there are a lot of boats on the river, especially when a high tide crowds the boats in a smaller area, but day in and day out there is plenty of room and good holes to fish.

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    Smile Good information. . .

    yukon: Thanks. . . good information. I listened to Sound Off on the radio today, and call after call complained about the number of guides and the crowding, citing instance after instance of locals choosing to quit fishing the Kenai. How do you answer such complaints?

    On one of the news breaks, the announcer said that the number of guides on the Kenai was up this year over last by 30-something, bringing the number up to 396 guides.

    How is someone standing on the sidelines to understand the conflicting messages out there?

    Let's hear answers to my question from more long-time river users.

    John

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    We have, at length, discussed the reasons for upgrading to 50hp and 4-strokes in other threads, those that favor it do because they feel it is right for the river to reduce erosion and hydrocarbons. A downside is some will have to buy new motors in the next year or so, personally, I have to buy 2 new motors and I am willing to do it.

  9. #9

    Default More crowded?

    My answer to your question is: depends. It's all about perception; or as the saying goes, "location, location, location."

    I have fished this river as a private angler since the mid '70s and recently a guide. Is the river more crowded than in the 70's, absolutely. But, is the total use higher now than in the 80's or 90's? I can't really say. I can say that some areas on the river are way more crowded than before, while others are less crowded than before.

    Fishers (guides and non-guides) will go to where they think the fish are, or where they hear that the fish are (cell phones?). This year, the fish simply did not hold in some of the traditional holes, particularly from Stewarts to the Middle River. Of course many fish were caught in those areas, but the main concentrations were not typical. Therefore, folks were congregating in the only areas producing fish, primarily Eagle Rock and below. This was indeed more crowded this year than in the past, however very popular holes like Sunken Island were practically void of boats.

    There were many unique factors that led to successful fishing below the Pasture this year: water temperature and clarity, the fish holding in the area (we caught several red kings (not "tomato's) in tidal water), beach nets severely restricted, and the fact that the PU boats were not competing for space below the bridge.

    It certainly is true that figures and statistics can be manipulated to make one's points. This is true for both sides of any debate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
    On one of the news breaks, the announcer said that the number of guides on the Kenai was up this year over last by 30-something, bringing the number up to 396 guides.
    Has anyone tracked the increase or decrease of private, non-guided boats? I have heard several anecdotes about private boaters leaving the Kenai and never looking back, nevertheless I would venture to say that there were more than 30 new users on the river (an assumption and opinion). I personally spoke with (and helped with advice, suggestions, tackle etc) several first-timers this year. But, I doubt that the actual number has ever been quantified.

    By the way, this number of guides includes whitewater rafts and drift boats on the entire length of the Kenai River.

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    Marcus,

    How do you answer such complaints?
    If they want to fish the river a 6 am on tuesday or Satruday and have only a handful of boats fishing, there is no amount of guide reduction that will solve that problem. My obervations are there are a lot of good times and places to fish that are not crowded. The river has 50 miles of fishable water for kings and I would guess 90+% of the effort is between RM5 and RM 18 with most between RM5 and RM13. I know many people that go out in the evenings and catch a lot of fish with little or no pressure at all.

    Not to mention May and June when many don't fish because of the slot limit, no bait, or poor water conditions. A lot of the effort has been moved to July because of that.
    BTW, May and June can be very good fishing without bait.

    How is someone standing on the sidelines to understand the conflicting messages out there?
    Don't stand on the sidelines and go out there and experience it for yourself over the lenght of the season, mid-May to September or Mid-May to July and then make a decision based on personal experience and not those of others.

    Guide number increase: I am not surprised, with all the talk of limiting guides I am sure more guys are jumping in. I would bet we will see a decline over the next few years with the added expenses and requirements. If I remember correctly in that number there are quite a few non-fishing guides (eco-tourism) that get lumped into that.

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    its sure less of a zoo then the Deska or Lake Creek.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Default Sheer numbers is only part of the issue

    As I've stated before I've fished with guides, I've fished in my own personal boat, and I've fished in boats owned by friends......

    I don't feel like tying up a lot of money in a boat I'll use 4-5 months out of the year........to me guides are the mass transit of the river........4 people fishing in a guide boat create a lot less crowding than 4 guys fishing with their buddies in 2 separate boats...........

    and odds are the guide is more experienced, more knowledgeable, more courteous and safer on the water that "joe six pack"....... (and I've been "joe six pack").........there are exceptions but I'm saying the "ODDS ARE"....

    fishing with a guide is the cheapest way to go.........if you can't afford to fish on a guide boat for kings a few days out of the year you sure as heck can't afford to own operate and maintain a boat.........

    I'm a little sick of the guide bashers who say they're stomping on "locals"......what they really mean is guides are irritating local BOAT OWNERS........who are not guides

    folks the lower Kenai during the second run of Kings is NOT a wilderness fishery.........get over it........if you want solitude go find another place to fish.......I'd also recommend you avoid the mouth of Willow Creek and the confluence of the Russian and Kenai Rivers......one of the humrous things about Alaskans is they love to kick their boat off the trailer at the launch and then figure nobody else should be allowed on the water after them.......*lol*

    I'm told that it's pretty well documented that the success rate on a guided boat is much higher than non guided boats........so perhaps there is a little envy or "blame game" going on here

    I never saw any instance where a guide boat inhibited others from fishing or catching fish (I'm sure they DO occur)......if anything it's just the opposite........which makes sense because guides have BIG numbers painted on the side of their boat making any infraction easy to report

    maybe I'm just fishing with and around a particularly "good" group of guides.......must be those dirty backtrollers that are the problem *lol*

    I don't have the day after day year after year experience that Yukon has observing the river but I fished on (supposedly) the two busiest days of the summer this year.....the 3rd and 4th Tuesdays in July

    It was crowded.... but I never felt unsafe and I never saw any conflict or what I considered dangerous situation .........other than a couple of "locals" fishing alone while driving the boat which made me wonder what on earth they would do if they hooked a big king and had to drive the boat, play the fish and try to land it...........I'm sure some are skilled enough to do it.......hats off to them but........

    I will say one of the few inarguable truths I've seen posted here is you can't turn this finite resource into a long term growth industry........I don't necessarily believe we've maxed out the use of the resource but I'm sure we're (a lot) closer to the top end than we are to the bottom

    I guess the point I tried to start off with here is I think it's unwise, inaccurate and unfair to turn this into a "local vs guides" issue because a guide boat (IMHO) is the most economical safest and probably most successful way for MOST locals to fish........

    it's actually going to become a guide boat owner vs non guide boat owner issue.............

    the rest of us should keep an open mind and not get sucked in by people who are trying to promote THEIR INTERESTS.......whether they are guide boat owners or owners of private boats......

    there will be "locals" on each sides of the issue and locals like me who on BOTH sides of the issue.......

    Some of you wanted to know what I meant when I said "let the games begin"......well this is just the first tiny little inkling of what is to come over the next few years

    and all because our water needs to be 10 times cleaner than Oregons for a few hours a day a handful of days of the year????

    as my daughter would say...........what-ever........

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    Default use patterns.

    These are average daily boat counts compiled by ADF&G in July for days when both guided and unguided anglers shared the river;

    1990 ........226
    1992.........187
    1996.........247
    2000........ 233
    2004........ 266
    2005........ 282
    2006........ 283

    This was done by a private individual using ADF&G data, I did not do the analysis but one thing is obvious to me - that people are taking bits and pieces of information and using those pieces to support a position.

    This is a multivariable question and yukon and others have pointed out some of those variables.

    It is only too crowded if it reaches a threshold that makes one takes action. I left the river years ago relative to the July chinook salmon fishery- could not stand it then and probably not now either. Plus I do not find chinook in the Kenai to be very exciting to catch. Lots of people do so good for them.

    AkCheese - please read the reports and understand the sampling. To continue to state that fuel levels exceeds the standard only a few days is not supported by DEC, DNR, ADF&G, or the Watershed Forum. They have all stated that the standard is exceeded over half the days in July, if not more. Also, it is simplistic to say that because you cannot measure an impact none is happening. For most species in the river no populaiton data exists. Give us all a break here - people from the City of Kenai to fish and game advisory boards are working to reduce fuel levels in the river. So the real issue is to reduce fuel levels, not argue about the standard.

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    Might be slightly off the general direction of this thread...but my two cents worth....

    I've been a dedicated sockeye fisherman on the lower Kenai for the last 15+ years. At the spot I frequent a guy used to be able to walk down to the river and find a wide open spot any time of the day. In general there might be a dozen folks or so down fishing. These days, you better get up early in the morning and claim your spot or you may have to sit around and wait just for the chance to get your boots wet.

    The Alaskan Bureau of Tourism has done a fine job of marketing Alaska as a outdoors recreation/fishing destination. It's remarkable the number of folks I talk to that want to "get up to Alaska someday" and do some fishing. With the increasing number of baby-boomers becoming retirees, driving the country in their RV's, Alaska has become a very accessible and alluring destination. It's amazing to me the number of retirees that hang out in Alaska all summer long, coming up in May and going back to the lower 48 in September. These folks, like myself, are usually finding somewhere to fish a shift every day, or at least a few times a week, be it flipping a fly for sockeye for a few hours, drifting the river on a guided trip, chartering a halibut, fishing the anchor river or the russian river, or chasing the silvers in Valdez. Not only that, like myself, they go home and brag about their awesome experiences and the following year they bring up their buddies, their kids, or their grandkids to show them the great Alaskan experience. As a result, the growth I've seen along the various sockeye spots seems to me to be almost exponential.

    Also noticeable has been the increase in Europeans in the sockeye fishery. Where fifteen years ago there were 1 or 2 groups of germans that would come up for a week at a time, now days there is literally 1 or 2 plane-loads of swiss and germans that descend on the river during each week of the run (yes plane-loads. I've spoke to them and those guys over there charter an entire plane-load of fishermen to come over these days). Correspondingly, the fleet of rental RV's seems to have increased as well.

    Starting to feel like I'm rambling here...basically to summarize my point, my experience is mainly in the sockeye fishery. Yes, from my perspective, the river is definitely more crowded today than it was 15 years ago. Is it good or bad? Not sure I can answer that right now. But it is the reality.

    thanks for the forum

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    It's crowded, but it's always been crowded. I've lived and fished the Kenai for about 15 years and it the difference that I've noticed is that there seems to be more guide boats and less private boats during guide hours. On the flip side, I used to be able to go at 3 AM and have the river to myself, now every other local with a boat has got smart and is also out there at 3 AM. If I were governor for a day I would:

    1. Remove the HP limit and set a speed limit of about 25 MPH. (Everybody is already running 50's and the wake produced by not getting up on step is a real problem. 2 F&G boats with radars/lasers would be more effective enforcement and less invasive than random HP checks.)
    2. Reduce the number of guide licenses by about 1/3 and lock that number.
    3. Create a system where the guides must pre-register a "flight-plan" if you will so you don't end up with 200 guides between Eagle Rock and Beaver Creek every morning.
    4. Shorten the guide fishing time from 7AM to 4PM to give the locals a little more "alone time" on the river and reduce guide fatigue. This will encourage day trips instead of half days and the economics will work themselves out.
    5. Eliminate ALL king fishing above the Soldotna bridge.
    6. Treat Kenai kings more like moose so that you HAVE to get a separate tag and HAVE to send it in if you harvest one. I honestly think F&G does not have a good grip on the amount of fish coming out of the water.
    Just my .02 anyway coming from a guy who was born in the Soldotna hospital, commercial fished for 8 years, worked for a KR guide outfit for 5 years and has privately fished the river for about 15 years. Flame away...

  16. #16

    Default Hmmmmm

    OK... let's take a look at your suggestions:
    Quote Originally Posted by tyrex13 View Post

    1. Remove the HP limit and set a speed limit of about 25 MPH. (Everybody is already running 50's and the wake produced by not getting up on step is a real problem. 2 F&G boats with radars/lasers would be more effective enforcement and less invasive than random HP checks.)
    2. Reduce the number of guide licenses by about 1/3 and lock that number.
    3. Create a system where the guides must pre-register a "flight-plan" if you will so you don't end up with 200 guides between Eagle Rock and Beaver Creek every morning.
    4. Shorten the guide fishing time from 7AM to 4PM to give the locals a little more "alone time" on the river and reduce guide fatigue. This will encourage day trips instead of half days and the economics will work themselves out.
    5. Eliminate ALL king fishing above the Soldotna bridge.
    6. Treat Kenai kings more like moose so that you HAVE to get a separate tag and HAVE to send it in if you harvest one. I honestly think F&G does not have a good grip on the amount of fish coming out of the water.
    1. Speed limits sound good, but is that water speed or ground speed? In other words, my speed will be greater going down stream when you add the speed of the current; How would a boat operator with an open skiff know without forcing an investment in a impeller water speed indicator or GPS, and for some boats an electrical system?

    2. Reducing the guides sounds like an easy solution; who do you cut? Who do you tell, "I'm sorry, but you are out of business and unemployed? Reducing the number of guides will also result in the increase in guide fees (supply/demand). As it is, there is not enough guides in July to satisfy the demand (not saying that is good or bad; could go either way)

    3. What if 200 guides all file a "flight plan" for below Eagle Rock? Who do you say, sorry, you have to fish Sunken Island today?

    4. Now it is 6-6, your suggestion of 7-4 may sound reasonable, but what is next 10-noon? Personally I do not do doubles; that is two trips per day, so this is not an issue with me, but certainly there are guys that depend on the double trips. I have a suspicion, nevertheless that this will be a reality sooner than later.

    5. Eliminating ALL king fishing above the bridge won't accomplish anything except to send more boats into the "crowded" areas, thus exacerbating the problem

    6. I think this suggestion has some merrit, but only if the commercial net guys have to do the same. I am definitely not against the net guys, beeing one of them myself in the past. Don't get me wrong, I think that there is a terrible lack of harvest data. As a guide, I must record every fish that is caught and/or released from my boat while guiding. The data is submitted to ADF&G. However there is no record of harvested or harrassed kings (C&R) and inaccurate data from the net guys who do not necessarily record every king harvested.

    You have some good suggestions, however the solutions are not quite as easy as they sound. Crowding is definitely a matter of perspective, and as stated not an issue restricted to the Kenai, not even Alaska.

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    Thanks for your input, very well stated. Let me say, if I did not make it clear previously, that I am very much pro fish stocks and sustainable yield rather than against guiding and guides as I have been there and have many very good friends who still do that for a living. Lets talk more about this...

    1. Speed limits sound good, but is that water speed or ground speed? In other words, my speed will be greater going down stream when you add the speed of the current; How would a boat operator with an open skiff know without forcing an investment in a impeller water speed indicator or GPS, and for some boats an electrical system?
    It would probably have to be water speed, which I know will make it more difficult to police, but not impossible. A current boat owner should have a 35 and probably can't achieve 25mph with a couple of people aboard. And a handheld GPS is $100, not cost prohibitive (assuming there is a single person in Alaska who owns a boat that does not have on board GPS, a fish finder with water speed indicator, or a handheld GPS. As a guide don't tell me that you wouldn't love to have a 75 or 115 hanging back there, so your boat is not completely worthless in the salt or Skilak. And the whole river doesn't necessarily have to have a speed limit, maybe just a dozen or so holes? It's really about safety.

    2. Reducing the guides sounds like an easy solution; who do you cut? Who do you tell, "I'm sorry, but you are out of business and unemployed? Reducing the number of guides will also result in the increase in guide fees (supply/demand). As it is, there is not enough guides in July to satisfy the demand (not saying that is good or bad; could go either way)
    I would reduce the number of guide permits gradually, by attrition. As guides retire or miss a year, pull that # out until the goal is reached. I would prefer to see the good guides who do it for a living realize a little higher profit by reducing the supply a bit.

    3. What if 200 guides all file a "flight plan" for below Eagle Rock? Who do you say, sorry, you have to fish Sunken Island today?
    Yeah, this one was a little out there, but interesting to talk about. I assume you have been at Big Eddy or the Beav on certain mornings where you wish either you weren't or 50 other guys weren't. Most holes are as effective as the next, there is no real "magic" hole and it's great to see people pulling plugs down by the lower bridge in an effort to beat the crowds. Most guides move around to either catch a tide or find a quiet place anyway, or just to change the scenery. I'm also not against limiting private boats during guide hours BTW.

    4. Now it is 6-6, your suggestion of 7-4 may sound reasonable, but what is next 10-noon? Personally I do not do doubles; that is two trips per day, so this is not an issue with me, but certainly there are guys that depend on the double trips. I have a suspicion, nevertheless that this will be a reality sooner than later. Another thing that makes no sense to me is why close the season at the end of July. There's no reason, if goals are met, not leave it open, say, below the Pillars or so as long as people want to fish it. A couple extra weeks of fishing would more than make up for the reduced income (if any) by the lost hours.
    7-4 still makes for a 5-6 work day, or 13 hours, which is a bunch of hours even for a construction or oil-field worker type. A guide could still run doubles, let's face it, clients doing 1/2 days usually aren't about fishing hard anyway, so 4 hours on the water would give them their moneys worth. And all the better for smart dudes like you who are already running singles.

    5. Eliminating ALL king fishing above the bridge won't accomplish anything except to send more boats into the "crowded" areas, thus exacerbating the problem
    What it would accomplish is it would keep people from pulling spawners off the beds, there's not a huge number of people fishing up there, but the ones that are are catching more than their fair share of pink hogs and hens that at that point, IMO, have survived the crucible and should be allowed to spawn. As a side note, any Kenai king less than 30" shouldn't be regulated as such and should be an automatic keeper without counting as a harvested king, also, IMO. I'm all for controlled harvests to deplete the dinks and increase the hog spauners.

    6. I think this suggestion has some merrit, but only if the commercial net guys have to do the same. I am definitely not against the net guys, beeing one of them myself in the past. Don't get me wrong, I think that there is a terrible lack of harvest data. As a guide, I must record every fish that is caught and/or released from my boat while guiding. The data is submitted to ADF&G. However there is no record of harvested or harrassed kings (C&R) and inaccurate data from the net guys who do not necessarily record every king harvested.
    I'll come out and say it, the beach sites near the mouth catch far too many Kenai kings. F&G doesn't really have a handle on how many they do catch and the guys do what they can to hide it. I know this by a) working a couple, b) working the canneries, and c) admissions by close friends that have the sites. Maybe the government should buy up the sites near the mouth, even if it cost $1mil+/shackle wouldn't it be worth it in the long run? Make the deal so sweet the commercial guys would be tripping over themselves to cash in and conversation over, problem solved.

    Anyway, thanks for the discourse, take it easy during your "off" season.


  18. #18

    Default crowding debate

    I think it would be in the best interest for all parties to cut down on the guide hours. 7 to 4 or 8 to 5 take your pick.

    Pros-
    A seven or eight am start for the guides would give the locals and the weekend warriors more "alone: time on the river.

    The boats launches on the lower river- pillars, eagle rock, etc, would see less congestion with two large groups of users accessing them at different times.

    Economics would force thew guides to market the single day trips as the only option for clients. Guides would be forced to book their entire boat for the day- just an observation, but I've noticed a lot of guides the past few years with only two or three clients. This could cut down on crowding.
    The Kenai fishery has just become another check mark on a list things to for tourists, like seeing Portage Glacier, going on kenai Fjords, or driving to Denali. A lot of these people never have fished in their life so why it is imparative that they have to go out and whack a Kenai King. The guides should market full-day quality trips that are priced so only serious anglers will want to put in the time and money. A lot of the guide fishery on the Kenai resembles a cheap meat market and this needs to change.

    I think a small gesture like limiting the guide hours would create a lot of good will towards the industry on the river. In light of the efforts of the Guide industry to ban two-stroke engines on the river and cut out a majority of the private anglers from a public resource it would be wise for them to bend a little bit before the backlash in Kenai and Soldotna from "Joe Fisherman" puts their economic future in jeopardy.

    Maybe me and the rest of my friends and neighbors can enjoy a couple more hours of relative peace on the river before "guide o'clock" rolls around, that is until we are "priced" out of the fishery by the two-stroke ban.

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    Nice shot at the two stroke ban....are you not worried about the hydrocarbons? BTW, it really makes no difference to guides on the 35/50 issue, it is not a $$$ thing for them. The proposal comes from the KRSMA board, not guides and there are a lot, possibly more non-guides for the proposed cleaner burning 4 strokes. This issue has been turned into a guide/non-guide issue and that is ridiculous, those that are for it are for it to reduce hydrocarbons and decrease wakes to benefit the river.


    Just remember, if you limit guides to 1 trip a day (which many are doing already) the demand is still there and you open up a demand for more guide boats, exactly the opposite you would be trying to accomplish.

    That could be a reason for an increase in guide numbers, more guys doing full day trips creating a demand for more guides.

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    Cool More grist for the mill. . .

    Keeping in mind the original question on this thread, here are some figures sent me by a friend:

    Parks' (DNR) information on motorized guide numbers operating indicates:
    1980's average 164 motorized guide boats
    1990's average 252 motorized guide boats
    2000's average 305 motorized guide boats


    If these figures are accurate then one of two options obtain:
    1) The river is more crowded, or
    2) If the river's not more crowded, the figures sadly reflect a decline in non-guide use.

    So which is it, is the river more crowded or not?

    Too, the oft-abused litany about decreased supply creating increased demand isn't universally true far from it. Keep in mind the economic maxim that supply creates its own demand.

    More later. . .

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