Daily Archives: August 19, 2009

Kasilof conundrum — Beach suffers from lack of resources, regulatory confusion

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A truck carrying dipnetters drives over fragile beach grass covering ecologically important dunes at the Kasilof River mouth Aug. 6. The fragile grass suffers abuse each summer, despite signs asking people to stay off it.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. A truck carrying dipnetters drives over fragile beach grass covering ecologically important dunes at the Kasilof River mouth Aug. 6. The fragile grass suffers abuse each summer, despite signs asking people to stay off it.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

At the mouth of the Kasilof River during the summer personal-use setnet and dipnet salmon fisheries, finding something to complain about is easy enough — garbage strewn across the beach; people pitching tents, parking and lighting campfires on private property; and trucks and four-wheelers tearing up the fragile beach grass that holds the ecologically important sand dunes in place.

“I hate to be a complainer,” said Patti Curry, who lives on the north side of the Kasilof River mouth with her husband, Mike. They say they are tired of the trespassing, trash, sanitation, parking and other issues that come with the hordes of fishermen each summer.

“On one side I’m really pissed, we both are, but I don’t want the fishery to close,” Patti Curry said. “I can’t complain about the fishery. We go out and put our 60-foot net in front of the property. I love it. … I think it’s wonderful that the state would give an individual that many fish, or the right to come down and fish. But you know something, there’s got to be some kind of …”

“Regulation?” Mike Curry finished for her. “I mean, unfortunately. We’re regulated out of our pantyhose, but when they push this many people down to a small area, it’s total mayhem.” Continue reading

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Filed under dipnetting, ecology, Kasilof

Weaving traditions — Net menders use old skill to meet new demands

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. Lisa Blackburn and her husband, Brian Mahan, mend a setnet behind their home in Clam Gulch earlier this summer.

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. Lisa Blackburn and her husband, Brian Mahan, mend a setnet behind their home in Clam Gulch earlier this summer.

Patrice Kohl

Redoubt Reporter

Brian Mahan understands the many menaces that can undermine the integrity of a fish net. He has seen a setnet shredded by coal deposits and rocks, or weakened with holes from hurried deckhands ripping holes to free fish. And he has seen the delicate webbing of a driftnet rendered useless after an encounter with a shark or bad trip through a Cook Inlet rip, notorious for collecting net-destroying junk.

“They’re full of logs, fish, beer cans—whatever is out there, it’ll get sucked into it,” Mahan said, referring to the rips.

Up until six years ago, mending nets was an important part of his career. Now it is his career. Six years ago, Mahan quit his career of more than 25 years of driftnet fishing to fix and hang nets full time. As a fishermen, when Mahan had a deckhand who didn’t know how to mend nets he made sure they learned how. But as the years went by, he found more and more of his deckhands arrived not knowing how to mend nets.

At the same time, Mahan’s wife, Lisa Blackburn, recognized that the ability to mend nets wasn’t just disappearing among Mahan’s deckhands, but among fishermen as a whole. She also recognized Mahan’s talent in mending nets and a business opportunity. She recommended he start fixing and hanging nets for other fishermen and learned how to do so herself so that she could help. She says the need for net-mending and net-hanging seems to have only grown in recent years with fishermen either not knowing how to mend themselves or not having the time or labor to do it.

“Used to be captains expected deckhands to know how to mend nets,” she said. “Heck, now half the captains don’t know how.” Continue reading

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Filed under commercial fishing, fishing, history

Dollars and sense — Green energy becoming a brighter financial idea

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Philip St. John, right, leads the Alaska Solar Tour at a home in Kasilof on Saturday, while Phil North, left, and Dan Chay examine a power meter hooked up to solar panels.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Philip St. John, right, leads the Alaska Solar Tour at a home in Kasilof on Saturday, while Phil North, left, and Dan Chay examine a power meter hooked up to solar panels.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

When Philip St. John is asked about solar panels, wind turbines or other sources of “green” energy, more often than not the questions aren’t about ecological impacts or the efficiency of the technology. Increasingly these days, people seem sold on the idea that renewables can work and are good for the environment.

What they’re not always sold on is price.

“Some people only look at the dollars, and are not using their sense,” he said.

St. John is the president of the Alaska Center for Appropriate Technology, which promotes research and education in sustainable technology. He also helped organize Saturday’s Alaska Solar Tour, where homes and businesses across the state showcase installations of renewable energy and green building techniques.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Homer hosted a few sites, a home off Kalifornsky Beach Road in Kasilof showed off its solar panels, and the self-sustainable community of Iona in Kasilof led a tour of its solar-thermal collectors and high-efficiency, wood-fired Garn units, which produce heat and hot water.

About 70 different people toured the two sites Saturday morning and afternoon, which is far more than St. John expected for the first Solar Tour in the state, much less on the peninsula.

“It was very, very good. We did not even request RSVPs. We expected five to 10 or 15 people,” he said. “The benefit of the Solar Tour is you’re not just handing out fliers or talking to people about it. In the Solar Tour, people get to see real, live neighbors using these products, and I think this made a bigger difference than a renewable energy fair or salesperson talking about it.” Continue reading

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Good clean run — Nikiski gym launches wet, wild event

2009 Elite Health and Fitness Mud Run results, noon Aug. 15:
Fastest woman, Lori Manion, 30:23
Fastest man, Andrew Tuttle, 26:46
Fastest junior, James Watkins, 26:08
Honorable mention, Molly Watkins, 27:10
Fastest team, The Golden Girls, 44:28
Cleanest racer, Meagan Easley
Best entrance into mud pit, Shane Hardesty

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First calls — Kenai Peninsula names have long, sometimes murky histories

Photo courtesy of Will Troyer. Will Troyer, pictured here in 1997 in Katmai National Park, was largely responsible for naming more than 200 Kenai Peninsula lakes when he was the manager for the Kenai National Moose Range in the 1960s.

Photo courtesy of Will Troyer. Will Troyer, pictured here in 1997 in Katmai National Park, was largely responsible for naming more than 200 Kenai Peninsula lakes when he was the manager for the Kenai National Moose Range in the 1960s.

Editor’s note: Following is part one of the histories behind some common central peninsula sites, starting in Homer and traveling mostly north toward Kenai and Soldotna. Next week’s story will cover the countryside from Soldotna and Sterling to Nikiski. Part three will cover the area east of Sterling all the way to Cooper Landing.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

In the early 1960s, when Will Troyer was manager of the Kenai National Moose Range, he frequently performed aerial surveys of moose, counting particularly those animals living in the vast expanse of the 1947 Kenai burn, which had charred more than 300,000 acres of the western Kenai Peninsula.

The moose were plentiful in those days, but Troyer experienced difficulties in nailing down the locations of the big animals because most of the hundreds of lakes and ponds on his U.S. Geological Survey maps were unnamed, so he had few reference points.

“Even when I’d radio in and give my location, it was tough to explain where I was sometimes,” Troyer said. “We needed I.D.’s for the lakes.

“So we got a list of names together, including names for the lakes in the canoe system we were building. We turned in maybe a couple hundred of them, and USGS accepted them all.”

The moose range biologists attempted to maintain common-use names whenever possible, and they mostly selected names that pertained to various local plants, animals and landmarks. Today, those names have been on maps for so long that, for most people, they seem to have always been there.

But it’s more than just names on topographical maps; it’s also the names on public buildings and memorials, and the names on common landmarks. Although some of those names are fairly recent, many have been around for decades — a few for more than a century — and their origins have grown cloudy with time.

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Filed under Almanac, history

Heightened perspective — Hikers have towering reminders to appreciate what’s around them

Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Bryan Edwards crests a low pass above Howard Douglas Lake in the early morning light of day four.

Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Bryan Edwards crests a low pass above Howard Douglas Lake in the early morning light of day four.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

A long the eastern shore of the Spray Lakes Reservoir, our taxi shuttle came upon a sight common to most Alaskans: a cow moose browsing on fresh willow leaves. The taxi slowed, and my fellow passengers became animated. Cameras appeared and windows opened.

The three Oregonians gesticulated and chattered, as I smiled. As much as I enjoyed watching moose, I couldn’t raise my level of enthusiasm to match theirs. I hadn’t traveled all the way to the Canadian Rockies just to see what I could view easily at home on the Kenai Peninsula.

On the other hand, I was amused by our driver: Our French-Canadian cabbie, who had lived for 20 years in Canmore, just southeast of Banff in Alberta, had just finished telling us that, although he knew moose lived in this area, he had never seen one.

And, after thus losing his moose-viewing virginity, he seemed doubly surprised when, five minutes later, we spotted another one.

I smiled again, knowing even as I did so, that I myself had been equally delighted by the sight of western Canada’s familiar white-tailed deer the day before, on our drive north from Portland.

Photo by Bryan Edwards. From the Og Lake campground, Mt. Assiniboine is seen towering on the horizon on the morning of Day Three.

Photo by Bryan Edwards. From the Og Lake campground, Mt. Assiniboine is seen towering on the horizon on the morning of Day Three.

Moreover, I knew this: It is easy for any of us to take for granted what we see every day — sometimes even what we see only on occasion — and to fail to look deeper. On this trip, I intended to do better.

Like many young Alaskans nowadays, I had (back in the late 1970s and early ’80s) driven back and forth through western Canada, traveling between my peninsula home and college out in the States. And, I suspect, like many young Alaskans making such a drive, I had mostly hurried to get from Point A to Point B, giving barely a nod of acknowledgement to the countryside through which I passed.

On this trip, at this place, I was going to take a closer look.

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Homing in on the Kenai — River plays staggered host to returning salmon species

By David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of Dr. David Wartinbee. This 18-pound silver salmon was caught by David Wartinbee in the Kenai River in August 2005.

Photo courtesy of Dr. David Wartinbee. This 18-pound silver salmon was caught by David Wartinbee in the Kenai River in August 2005.

This week, upon returning from a fishing trip on the Kenai River, I spoke with a couple first-time Alaska visitors from Georgia. They wanted to know about fishing, my fishing success and, most importantly, were there salmon in the river right now?

My wife often cautions folks that if they ask a biological question, my answer may be longer and more complicated than might be expected. I gave them an abbreviated answer. Well, it was as short as this long-winded biologist could produce. They were polite enough to show appreciation for the answer, and they may even have believed my claim of fishing success, too.

To those who live and fish on the peninsula, it is commonly known that the salmon in a particular river will depend upon the time of year, the particular species of salmon and then the genetic strains within the species. It’s tough to give a six-second, sound-bite response.

I explained to the visitors that in mid-August, king salmon arrivals decline substantially. A few more red salmon are straggling in and working their way upstream to various spawning beds and feeder streams.

Silver salmon are arriving right now and fishermen all along the river are finding success in their favorite fishing holes. Pink salmon have been coming in for a while, now, but the numbers are fairly low this year.

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Filed under ecology, fishing, Kenai River, salmon