Category Archives: dipnetting

Containing the Kasilof — State proposes new facilities for personal-use fishing crowds

Redoubt Reporter file photos by Joseph Robertia Above, crowds of dip-netters park on the beach at the mouth of the Kenai River in a previous fishing season. The Alaska Department of Natural resources is proposing a parking lot and other developments to help prevent some of the environmental harms, such as the littering, at right, that occur from the area’s  increasing use.

Redoubt Reporter file photos by Joseph Robertia
Above, crowds of dip-netters park on the beach at the mouth of the Kenai River in a previous fishing season. The Alaska Department of Natural resources is proposing a parking lot and other developments to help prevent some of the environmental harms, such as the littering, at right, that occur from the area’s increasing use.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With the ever-growing popularity of the Kasilof River personal-use fisheries, the beach is becoming increasingly recognized as an area being loved to death.

The crowds that come to fish, camp and recreate in the summer overtax the suitable parking and camping areas, and seasonal garbage and toilet facilities. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has incrementally increased services in recent years — and local efforts resulted in a fence to protect a stretch of sensitive sand dunes and beach grass on the south beach — but not enough to stem the tide of damages resulting from the flood of people each summer.

The department is stepping up its efforts on the north beach with a proposal to create a paved parking lot that can accommodate 315 vehicles, a two-way, 40-foot-wide beach access road and developed areas for seasonal Dumpsters and toilets. A 45-day public comment period began Oct. 15 and closes Nov. 30 on the site concept plan for the North Side Improvement Project planned for the Kasilof River Special Use Area.

“The issues or problems to be solved with this project include addressing degradation of sensitive coastal Kasilof the problemdunes and wetlands, unimproved parking areas, insufficient access for emergency and sanitation services and trespass onto private property,” Clark Cox, the department’s regional manager, stated by email.

So far the plan doesn’t propose instituting user fees, such as for parking or camping.

“User fees are not being proposed at this time. In order to have the ability to collect user fees for the Kasilof River Special Use Area during the personal-use fisheries at some point in the future, the department would be required to adopt a regulation through a public process,” Cox stated.

Participation in the personal-use fishery overall and at the Kasilof, in particular, has skyrocketed. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, in the first year of the fishery, 1996, 14,575 permits were issued to Alaskans, and dip-netters participated on 1,300 “household days” at the Kasilof. A household day is fishing by one or more household member in a 24-hour period. For comparison, the Kenai River experienced 10,503 household days fished the same year.

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Kenai OKs plan for south beach road — City to purchase 7 lots for $1.6 million

Imagery from Kenai Peninsula Borough parcel viewer. The city of Kenai will purchase the highlighted seven lots in order to build a new access road to the south beach of the Kenai River.

Imagery from Kenai Peninsula Borough parcel viewer. The city of Kenai will purchase the highlighted seven lots in order to build a new access road to the south beach of the Kenai River.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

It was not their ideal solution, but members of the Kenai City Council did pass a solution at its Sept. 16 meeting to address the thorny problem of providing better access to the south beach of the mouth of the Kenai River during the July dip-net fishery.

“We have to think outside the box a little bit. This is a little different than normal but I believe it can work, I believe it’s the right solution with the options that were given us and I don’t think we need to delay any further,” said Council Member Tim Navarre, who voted in favor of the city purchasing seven lots off Drag Net Court for the purpose of constructing a beach access road.

The city only needs four of the lots for the road project, but negotiations with ARK Properties LLC resulted in only one deal — all seven or none. The lots include one with a mansion and various outbuildings with a borough assessed value listed at over $1.4 million.

Not liking that option, the city investigated skirting those lots to put in a road, but that placed the path through sensitive wetlands, which was another nonstarter.

So it was back to the purchase option. The city obtained a $1.9 million grant from the state for improved access and upgrade work for the dip-net fishery. The road project is covered under that pot of money, including the $1.6 million purchase price for the seven lots.

But there are a few strings attached. The city intends to sell the lots it doesn’t need for the access road. The state doesn’t want the city using grant money to buy the land then turn around and sell it at a profit, since the purchase price of the lots is below the assessed value.

As City Manager Rick Koch explained, if there is any profit from the sale of the extra lots, the city will be required to return it to the state, where it will go back into the grant and be available for the city to use for other dip-net access and improvement work.

“It’s the same grant money that’s been replenished. And we are able to use it for the same purpose that the grant was extended to the city in the first place.” Koch said.

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Kenai red fishing blues — Sockeye run slow to return but picking up

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Mike Baker watches dip-netters at the north beach of the Kenai River on Monday evening, waiting for a sign that the fishing is picking up.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Mike Baker watches dip-netters at the north beach of the Kenai River on Monday evening, waiting for a sign that the fishing is picking up.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The good news is that the bulk of the Kenai River late run of sockeye salmon might finally be making its appearance. The bad news is it’s too late for a lot of fishermen who annually target the third week of July to do their harvesting — as that tends to be when a mass of fish makes a push into the river.

“I think I’m just going to head back tonight. If it was better I mighta stayed longer. I’ll maybe try later. A lot of construction, though (on the drive),” said Mike Baker, of Anchorage.

Baker was sitting on the cooler he hoped to fill at the north beach of the Kenai River on Monday evening, watching hundreds of his fellow dip-netters standing — and waiting — out in the water.

“It’s pretty slow, just kind of hit or miss,” he said.

Fish counts underscore that assessment. The sockeye sonar counter in the Kenai River posted unimpressive numbers over the weekend — 17,500 fish Friday and 20,000 Sunday. The number jumped a bit Monday to 49,000 fish, but that only brought the cumulative total of late-run Kenai River sockeye to just under 300,000 fish — not nearly as many as would have returned by this point in a more typical run.

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Fishing for a smooth season — Dip-net prep starts long before the fish, people show up

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. City of Kenai workers were busy last week preparing for the start of the dip-net fishery Friday. The crowds of dip-netters show up overnight, but the services needed to manage them take considerable time, money and planning to put in place.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. City of Kenai workers were busy last week preparing for the start of the dip-net fishery Friday. The crowds of dip-netters show up overnight, but the services needed to manage them take considerable time, money and planning to put in place.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

As sockeye salmon return to the Kenai River in July, so, too, do crowds of dip-netters seeking to catch their share. But while the people show up overnight, the fishery doesn’t come together that fast. Prep work begins before the first late-run fish hit the fresh water.

Come the 6 a.m. July 10 opening of the Alaska resident dip-net fishery on the Kenai, the place was humming with hundreds of boats, vehicles and people, seeking their share of the tens of thousands of sockeye salmon that pass through the sandy, silty, windy transition of Cook Inlet and the river each day.

“On our busiest day we’ll see up to 15,000 — that’s in boats and on the north beach and south beach,” said Kenai City Manager Rick Koch. “You think, ‘Gosh, that’s just an incredible number,’ but you think of 600 boats out there during the course of the day, you put four people in a boat, that’s 2,400 people already.”

Kenai has the dubious honor of managing the most popular location of the state’s personal-use dip-net fishery.

“Things have become significantly more routine as it relates to keeping beaches clean, making sure we have enough portable toilets, Dumpsters, parking spaces are well defined, trying to moving people through — those things over the last five to six years we’ve got handle on, being event people. It’s sort of like Wrigley Field and 40,000 of you and your closest friends show up for a few hours. We’ve become event coordinators, and I think our personnel have done a very good job at undertaking those responsibilities, but every year there’s always something new,” Koch said.

Work began far in advance of the Friday opening. On Thursday, the beaches were busy with city workers doing last-minute preparations.

“Restroom cleaning, putting up fence to keep people off the dunes, picking up trash, cleaning up, whatever needs doing,” said Larry Hull, with the Kenai Parks and Rec Department.

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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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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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