With 10-15 thousand people coming to the Kenai to dip net it does not take a large percentage of people to cast a negative net over the entire fishery. Even if only 5 percent behave badly that means 500 people causing problems. So far this week complaints are coming in from all sectors of the community. I am not against the fishery but here are some examples that will threaten it in the long term:
1. The five spaces at the Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Viewing Platform dedicated to people and visitors using the platform have been full of personal use dip net cars. While a person using the platform may stay for 10 minutes or so and therefore this fast turn over offers lots of people the opportunity to see the river, resources, and fisheries. In contrast, personal use fisherman are taking the spots with total disregard for the signs and limitations.
2. People who are coming and going for the personal use fishery are letting their dogs run free in the estuarine wetlands and that is causing migrating and nesting birds to flee. The chicks of a number of birds have not fledged yet and this is just bad behavior on the part of these dog owners.
3. Today, at the Kenai boat launch the traffic was backed up but I could get to the platform via walking from the main road. A school bus has brought some kids to see the activities. With kids running around a pissed off driver of a vehicle and a boat behind pulled quickly into the bird parking lot and tried to turn his vehicle and boat around with other vehicles behind him and thus it was a mess. Some people eventually moved so he could make it and he left quickly and fast. Not a smart thing to do.
4 Fish guts and parts are being dumped around the community. One report is from near the senior center where someone dumped two buckets of fish guts over the bluff right in front of the center. Other spots for dumping fish has been in gravel pits near my home and in small streams like Slikok Creek.
5. The Kenai Visitor Center has received comments that there is no place for three weeks for people who visit Kenai to walk on the beach without being in a crowd. Thus tourism which is important for Kenai is being impacted.
6. Conflict between personal use fisherman continues over a variety of things. Some result in physical conflict but most are not.
7 Personal use camping and access at Kasilof is again trashing the dunes.
I could go on but the idea some Alaskans, who come down to the Kenai to enjoy the resources and beauty of the place, treat our community like a play ground with no rules is threatening all civil personal use fisherman. Each year I am hearing more of a backlash against these fisheries and the examples are piling up. So what I am asking is that people who see this negative behavior report it to someone in authority or take a license number or approach the individual with a polite request to stop doing what they are doing. For example, I explained to a person today why a dog running loose at this time of year was not a good idea and she was just not aware of the situation. However, there was no way I was going to talk to the pissed off vehicle driver or the person who in front of a number of bird watchers at a pond walked up to the pond with her dog and flushed all the birds. She knew what she was doing. Both of them were probably not in no mood for civil discussion but wanted confrontation.
I would hope the dip net organization can seriously hear some of the issues and work toward solving them. Until we get the State agencies to take these seriously it is left to the users to do it. That is a sorry state of affairs but someone must try.