Kenai River Classic embarks on 3rd decade... ladies catch the big ones!

Even though the mighty Kenai kings are no longer the target of the Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc. (KRSA) annual Kenai River Classic, the event remains an important venue for habitat and conservation efforts on the Kenai River with the silver and pink salmon providing fantastic opportunities and plenty of fish stories to take home. Nearly 100 people showed their support for the Kenai River last week by participating in event and for the second year in a row it was a lady who landed the largest fish of the three day tournament. When the idea for an event on the Kenai emerged from the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and Bob Penny 21 years ago, the first KRSA executive director was Ben Ellis, an avid sport fishermen and lover of the Kenai River. This year it was Ben’s wife Susie Ellis who brought a 13.1 pound beautiful silver. “It was awesome, I felt it hit and I did exactly what the guide told me to do, he put on quite a show jumping and fighting, but I kept reeling and when he got to the net he jumped out and I panicked because I wasn’t about to lose this fish and we finally got in the boat,” Ellis told the Dispatch in an interview. Taking second place in the derby was JP Connelly of BP with a 12.5-pound fish and coming in third was James Fueg of Donlin Gold. Kenai River Guide Val Early won the Yamaha “Celebrate the Guides” Luck of the Draw 50-hp engine again this year.

It was a lady from Texas last year who won the first silver Classic and took the Ted Stevens silver trophy for the first time out of state and Susie said she was happy to return it to Alaska. According to executive director Ricky Gease the purpose of the event since its inception was to educate policymakers, corporate officials and fishing enthusiasts on how important it is to take care of the Kenai River and its fisheries resources for future generations.

Highlights of this year’s events included the second annual “Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing” with U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich. Representatives from leading national sport fishing interests, including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association, joined KRSA to discuss some of the issues facing recreational fisheries. Thursday, Classic participants held a Legislative update from officials with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and Alaska State Parks.

The 2014 Kenai River Classic also gave a boost to the local economy, the three-day fundraising event, held August 20-22, contributed several hundred thousand dollars to the Kenai/Soldotna economies through participant lodging, food, guides, tours and transportation. Funds raised through participant and sponsor fees and auction proceeds are used for habitat restoration, angler access and education, fisheries management and research, and other conservation efforts on the Kenai River and other South-central Alaska watersheds, according to Gease. Nearly 375 people attended the annual auction and banquet at Soldotna Sports Center on Wednesday evening. At that time, Alaska Sen. Pete Kelly was honored with the Alaska Legislative Sportfishing Advocate of the Year award. Presenting sponsor of this year’s Classic was Yamaha. Title sponsors included Alaska Airlines, ConocoPhillips and RAVN Alaska.

Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) is a 501 (c) 3 charitable non-profit, fishery conservation organization of sport anglers, conservationists and others whose primary goal is to preserve and improve salmon habitat while promoting responsible sport fishing on the Kenai River. Learn more at