Kenai nets crowd swell — Regulations, fees meant to protect habitat, fishermen

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. The crowds at the Kenai River dip-net fishery thinned this weekend from the peak of fishing July 19, but hundreds still packed the beach in hope of packing their coolers with sockeye salmon.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. The crowds at the Kenai River dip-net fishery thinned this weekend from the peak of fishing July 19, but hundreds still packed the beach in hope of packing their coolers with sockeye salmon.

By Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter

They come by four-wheeler, car, truck and RVs. They line the shore, shoulder to shoulder, in queues hundreds of people long, each holding a large hoop net in hand. Farther out on boats, and even the occasional jet ski, still more people motor along, holding nets underwater. The Kenai River dip-net fishery is only three weeks long, but it annually brings a frenzy of fishing activity to the area, and an associated frenzy of efforts by area managers to manage and protect the natural resources, as well as those who come to harvest.

According to data collected by the city of Kenai, 83 percent of Kenai River dip-netters are not from the peninsula.

“The numbers for this season are still not in, but I think we’ll find the first week of the fishery this year will be equal to weekends in other years, that Saturday (July 19) was huge. Sunday it tapered off a bit, but it has been comparable to recent past years since then,” said Kenai City Manager Rick Koch, in terms of the number of dip-netters observed so far this year.

Participation in this fishery has grown exponentially since 1996, according to data from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. In 1996, 14,576 personal-use dip-net permits were issued to state residents, of which an estimate of 10,503 household days were fished at the Kenai River, amounting to 107,627 salmon caught.

By contrast, in 2013, 35,211 total permits were issued, of which 33,193 household days were reportedly fished at the Kenai River, amounting to 354,727 salmon caught (compared to 8,556 household days fished at the Kasilof River, amounting to 88,233 salmon caught).

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River mouth bites back — Dip-netter lands impressive lost, found fish tale

Photo courtesy of Lisa Ferguson. A dip-netter, far right (unidentified) lost his dentures to a wave in the Kenai River on July 19, and found them the following day, with the help of Kyle Ferguson, of Kenai. Pictured at left are Ferguson’s friends, Gary and Kim Morgan.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Ferguson. A dip-netter, far right (unidentified) lost his dentures to a wave in the Kenai River on July 19, and found them the following day, with the help of Kyle Ferguson, of Kenai. Pictured at left are Ferguson’s friends, Gary and Kim Morgan.

By Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter

The Kenai River dip-net fishery annually nets its share of stories along with the salmon. Some are tales of travelers who came down from Anchorage hoping for huge hauls but leaving with a cooler nearly as empty as when they came. Others are action-packed accounts of “You should have been there” days when every dip of the net brought up two or three fish at a time.

But there also are the reports that are just plain weird, and when it comes to swapping stories of the serendipitous from the 2014 dip-net season, Kenai resident Kyle “The Ferg” Ferguson has a doozey to tell.

It starts in the way the best stories do:

“It sounds unbelievable, but it’s all true,” he said.

It happened over the weekend of July 19 and 20, when a strong surge of late-run sockeye entered the Kenai River, and a simultaneous horde of fishermen came with nets in hand to land as many of the sea-bright sockeye as they could.

“It was a rough day in the water,” Ferguson said, recounting taking a flossing in the nearly neck-deep brine on the north side of the river mouth, clinging to his dip net with white knuckles to hold on in the strong outgoing tidal current.

It was “combat fishing” at its finest, or worst, depending on how one perceives standing nearly shoulder to shoulder with other hopeful fishermen.

“Waves were rolling in and breaking over us. It was really something,” he said.

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Sounds like fun — Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival in tune with variety

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kent Peterson and Jeanne Duhan perform at Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk in Soldotna on Monday, the first of two weeks worth of free noon concerts around town as part of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Summer Music Festival.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kent Peterson and Jeanne Duhan perform at Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk in Soldotna on Monday, the first of two weeks worth of free noon concerts around town as part of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Summer Music Festival.

By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter

 

Don’t let the dress black attire, choreographed concert etiquette, sunny summer afternoons eschewed to stay in and practice, or, in this case, the heart-wrenching melancholy of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” fool you — the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra is down for a good time.

A well-rehearsed, in tune, rhythmically precise, note-perfect good time — but a good time all the same. That’s where KPO’s Summer Music Festival comes in. It hits all the right notes for KPO musicians and music lovers in the community — the infrequent opportunity for a live, full-orchestra performance of intricate, demanding, grandiose, renowned masterworks of classical music, plus the festive fun of just jamming on some tunes.

“I’m so excited for the festival this year. It’s going to be so much fun,” said Tammy Vollom-Matturro, conductor and artistic director of the KPO.

The festival cued up Monday with the first of two weeks of free informal concerts held at noon each weekday at various locations around the central Kenai Peninsula and Homer. In Soldotna, the first concert was with Jeanne Duhan and Kent Peterson, jamming on guitar, mandolin and harmonica to a set list including Fleetwood Mac, the Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show, among others. The concerts are a way to promote the upcoming gala concert — Aug. 8 in Homer and Aug. 9 in Kenai — but also a chance for musicians to play with music a little more loosely than they would play in orchestra.

“In orchestra they play French horn (Duhan) and bass (Peterson). So they get to show off different sides of their talent, and they’re just great,” said Vollom-Matturro, who will be putting down her baton and picking up her clarinet to perform in one of the afternoon concerts.

“I get to take out my clarinet and I get to play, and I love playing chamber concerts. It’s different from what we’re doing in the big orchestra. It’s more intimate, you can interact with the crowd and the music is totally different and shows off a different side of their musicianship. They really, really enjoy this relaxed atmosphere. The musicians love it,” she said.

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Stocked to rock — Annual music festival ready to roll

Logo graphic by Ray Troll

Logo graphic by Ray Troll

By Ed Kobak, for the Redoubt Reporter

The fourth installment of the Salmonstock Music Festival takes center stage Friday through Sunday at the Ninilchik Fairgrounds in what promises to be the most heavily attended of the annual event.

Officially, “Salmonstock is a celebration of wild Alaskan Salmon and the people that depend on them. It’s also the power we have to protect our renewable resources.” Festivalgoers also know it as a blend of salmon, music, food, art and beer. Salmonstock, sponsored by the Renewable Resources Foundation, blends a small-town country atmosphere with a highly charged and established music festival in what amounts to three days of fun and music for “wild salmon warriors” from across the state and other environs.

According to Salmonstock’s media director, Kate Huber, this year’s event is expecting to draw 6,500 people.

“We’ve sold more presale tickets than any other year,” she said.

Last year’s festival drew more than 5,500, so be prepared to get there early as parking is limited at the fairground parking lot across the Sterling Highway. Paid parking is available at the adjacent church north of the fairgrounds and the American Legion just to the south along the highway.

Salmonstock prides itself on being a family friendly event, so be sure to bring kids to the Small Fry area, which has an animal petting area, coloring books, face painting and other children’s activities, including the ever-popular giant outdoor slide that had long lines throughout last year’s festival.

One of the most unique elements of the festival is the Action of Art Aerial Human Mosaic, which takes place at 3 p.m. Saturday in the rodeo grounds. Homer artist Mavis Muller is the creator/facilitator of this human interactive event that drew more than 500 participants last year. Muller, the creator of the annual end-of-summer Burning Basket event in Homer, also is bringing “Fireball,” a huge, woven alder branch sculpture to be on display near the Ocean Stage.

Other popular areas are the beer garden just off the Ocean Stage, which is always packed, under tight security, with orderly wild salmon warriors listening to the music and enjoying their favorite beverages among friends.

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Common Ground — Puppies are great, minus the wait

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. A very pregnant Parker has her owner feeling labor pains.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. A very pregnant Parker has her owner feeling labor pains.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter
There’s an old saying, a watched dog never gives birth. It came from the annals of amateur breeders who fret and fawn over their beloved pregnant pets and experienced the science-defying slowness of labor. It had been less than 24 hours since Parker’s temperature dropped. The Internet said the birth of puppies was imminent when the dog’s temperature dropped. But now I was questioning my skill at using the rectal thermometer. The only instruction was in the form of marketing, “Takes temperature in under 10 seconds.”
For those who have never had children, are not veterinarians, are overcoming natural-born squeamishness and need lots of instruction, taking an animal’s rectal temperature ranks up there with learning how to fly a helicopter and performing neurosurgery. At the same time. There are buttons and a screen to watch as well as an angle of attack to consider, all while inserting a medical device with a calming bedside manner.
It was a two-person job, and my part required the most skill. Anyone can hold the dog’s head and whisper sweet nothings in its ear. That wasn’t my job. My dog’s tail was clamped shut as if she seemed to know what was happening.
“Not sure how to go about this,” I said. The thermometer beeped. Did that mean a countdown had ensued? I needed more time!
“What are you doing back there?” the head-holder asked. Head-holders do not appreciate that the people on the other end of the job cannot be criticized.
Nobody asks the pilot, “Hey, what are you doing up there?” Nobody asks their neurosurgeon what kind of grades she got in medical school. And it’s just plain not helpful to question the skill level of someone who is about to stick a thermometer in a place with very little available light.
“There’s a lot of fur back here, I can’t see where I’m going with this thing,” I said. My dog looked back at me with the evil eye. I had read somewhere that the way to stop an attack from a vicious dog was to digitally penetrate its anus. At the time, I didn’t question this potentially life-saving advice. Now, when faced with the actual logistics of such a feat, I realized how difficult it would be to attempt. Even more so with bears, probably.

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Plugged In: Kodak’s moment in sun eclipsed by Fujifilm

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter
Fujifilm was often termed the Kodak of Japan. However, Fujifilm is still with us and prospering in the high-end market, while Kodak filed bankruptcy in 2012 and sold off its patent and brand-name rights to little-known startups.
There were many similarities between Kodak and Fujifilm but one crucial difference. Both Kodak and Fujifilm were huge photographic film companies with excellent technology and brand names known worldwide for their excellent professional and consumer products. At the turn of the millennium, a mere 14 years ago, both Kodak and Fujifilm were among the most financially successful and prestigious companies in their respective countries.
The crucial difference, though, was that Kodak failed to evolve and adapt to digital photography. Even as Kodak proclaimed that it accepted the market’s digital realities, the company clung to its comfortable old ways. When Kodak finally tried to change, it was too late. Kodak squandered a huge cash flow, decades of leading-edge technology and customer good will by cheapening its digital camera product line just as cellphone camera functions displaced inexpensive compact consumer cameras.
Like many organizations that failed to evolve, Kodak died an embarrassing, lingering death. Digital photography supplanted Kodak’s lucrative, film-based photography business, just as Kodak’s first film products superseded less-convenient methods a century earlier. Kodak covered its eyes and hoped that the future would simply go away, which it didn’t.
Ironically, Kodak literally invented digital photography in the late 1970s and had a huge technological head start on the competition. Kodak held crucial digital imaging patents. It manufactured the digital imaging sensors found in NASA satellites and in some of the world’s most prestigious cameras, including those made by Leica and Hasselblad.
Fujifilm successfully made the transition to digital photography by its early acceptance of compact-system cameras. In the process, Fujifilm evolved its brand recognition from making inexpensive, me-too consumer cameras to selling highly regarded and profitable professional-grade gear.

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Dipping into big crowds — Kasilof fishery seeing highest rate of growth

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. The personal-use dip-net fishery at the mouth of the Kasilof River is looking more and more like the crowded Kenai River, with crowds of fishermen descending to the beach and shoreline to attempt to pack their coolers with fish.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. The personal-use dip-net fishery at the mouth of the Kasilof River is looking more and more like the crowded Kenai River, with crowds of fishermen descending to the beach and shoreline to attempt to pack their coolers with fish.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Personal-use dip netting for salmon is a rite of summer for an increasing number of Alaskans, who ply the waves of Fish Creek, the Kenai River or Kasilof River. According to data collected from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, more personal-use permits — 35,211 — were issued last year than any year since the fisheries began in 1996. And of the these three fisheries utilized for dip netting, none is growing as fast as the Kasilof River.

“There is a heightened interest in the dip-net fishery,” said Robert Begich, area management biologist for Fish and Game’s Division of Sport Fish in Soldotna.

According to Fish and Game data, in 1996 only 14,575 permits were issued for personal-use fishing, of which household days fished at the Kasilof River dip-net fishery totaled 1,300. By contrast, the Kenai River experienced 10,503 household days fished that year.

Jumping ahead to 2013, of the 35,211 permits issued, records reveal an eight-fold increase in household days fished at the Kasilof, with 8,556 days fished. The Kenai River, which still draws more people overall, has only had a three-fold increase during this same time period, with 33,193 household days recorded in 2013.

And unlike the Kasilof, which has experienced a steady increase in days fished since 1996, 2013 was the first year the Kenai River had less days fished according to permits records, dropping from an all-time high of 34,374 household days recorded in 2012.

Salmon harvests for this time period also correlate to the increase in days fished, as the Kasilof dip-net harvest swelled from 11,701 salmon caught in 1996 to 88,233 in 2013, while the Kenai harvest increased from 107,627 to 354,727 for the same time period.

Of course, the population of Alaska is increasing, and as more people become residents, more people are allowed to take part in the dip-net fisheries, but Begich said that the rate of increase in the Kasilof fishery is not necessarily related to a growing population.

“We haven’t seen that much of an increase in license sales,” he said.

So what is drawing more people to the mouth of the Kasilof? It depends on who you ask.

“We’ve fished in all three. We fished Fish Creek and the Kenai last year, so decided to try the Kasilof this year, and this is definitely going to be our spot,” said Pedro Bencid, of Anchorage, who swatted away flies while filleting his full bag limit Saturday afternoon at his camp at the mouth of the Kasilof.

Bencid said that while the Kasilof is crowded, and may be growing more so each year, it’s still less overall people than at the Kenai River mouth.

“The Kenai was just way too packed, and also you can’t drive and live right on the beach like you can here,” he said.

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