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Is the Kenai more crowded?

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  • 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?

  • #2
    That is what the data shows.


    • #3

      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.


      • #4
        Give it another shot. . .

        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


        • #5
          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*)


          • #6
            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.


            • #7
              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.



              • #8
                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
                  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.

                  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.


                  • #10

                    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.


                    • #11
                      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.


                      • #12
                        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 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 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 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........


                        • #13
                          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
                          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.


                          • #14
                            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


                            • #15
                              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...


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