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Another 'drift-only' day

Posted: December 19, 2013 - 4:01pm

Right after “too many guides,” the most common complaint I hear about king salmon fishing on the lower Kenai River is that it’s “too crowded.”

Other than having a poor run of kings, the only way to reduce crowding is to allow fewer boats on the lower river in July, when use is heaviest.

The number of boats could be controlled by requiring a permit to fish from a boat.

It wouldn’t be the first time permits were used to control boat traffic. Part of Oregon’s popular Rogue River has been regulated by federal permit for years, with lottery winners getting the permits. The part of the upper Kenai River that runs through federal land is currently regulated by federal permit, the purpose of which is to limit commercial use, including fishing guides. To date, the feds haven’t required non-commercial users to have permits, but it could happen.

However, requiring a permit to fish from a boat for Kenai kings would be a major inconvenience for users. If a healthy run of kings came in one year, permits would be greatly in demand the next. Competition for permits would be fierce. If you wanted to take Uncle Joe fishing on the Kenai when he comes to visit next summer, you might end up having to take him elsewhere.

A less onerous way to reduce crowding on the Kenai would be to add another day of non-motorized fishing to the existing “drift-only” Mondays in May, June and July. Anyone who is on or near the Kenai on Mondays during these months will attest that the river is definitely different on the days when fishing from motorized boats isn’t allowed. The river is far less crowded. Other benefits are that boat wakes, boat traffic, engine noise and water pollution are reduced. When sockeyes are running, some motorized traffic occurs on Mondays, but it’s nothing compared to the other six days of the week.

I bring this up now because the Alaska Board of Fisheries will be considering proposals to add another “drift-only” day when the board meets in January. Proposal 237 by the City of Kenai and Proposal 238 by the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition propose like solutions to the issues of turbidity, erosion, safety and fishing pressure on the Kenai. Although guided fishing from boats isn’t allowed on “drift-only” Mondays, both proposals would allow it on “drift-only” Thursdays.

I heartily support adding another “drift-only” day. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t own a drift boat, and I fish from one only on rare occasions. I’d likely be one of the people who don’t fish for kings on “drift-only” days.

We’re loving the Kenai to death. Giving it a rest from motor-powered fishing would be a good way to show it some respect. I urge you to join me in letting the fish board know that you support Proposals 237 and 238. (See how below.) Adding another day of “drift-only” fishing would be a healthy step in the right direction.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries meets to consider changes to Upper Cook Inlet Finfish regulations Jan. 31-Feb. 13, 2014 (14 days) in Anchorage at the Egan Civic Center. The comment deadline is Jan. 17, 2014. For more information or to read or download the proposals, visit the Boards Support Section website: The board accepts comments online, by mail, FAX and in person.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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Suss 12/23/13 - 07:10 am
Drift only days

Fishing anywhere on the Kenai from a drift boat is a life changing event. Fishing from a drift boat on a Monday, the lower river is the most rewarding and enjoyable experience that can be had with or without a pole in your hand. Proposals for extra drift boat only days have been brought to the BOF numerous times and haved failed because of pressure from Penney and the KRSA lobbying against this idea. This showing of true greed over conservation has been proven by KRSA time and time again when given an opportunity to test their worth. Hiring biologists by KRSA to advance this platform of greed has harmed the resource. Penney and his cohorts at KRSA should go away from the Kenai River like the jet boats that had to in 1985.

pengy 12/24/13 - 07:51 am
I like drift boat fishing on

I like drift boat fishing on the Kenai during king season but unfortunately it's become "anchor boat" Monday. I wish the rangers would enforce the law of no anchoring in the boating and fishing channels. True drift boat fishing using your oars is wonderful. Sitting on anchor all day and crowding out people is not.

Suss 12/26/13 - 11:30 pm
Back trolling blockade

Have never had a problem with drift boats blocking the Kenai. I have had the power boat blockade the lower river at the Warren Ames bridge, Beaver Creek, at Eagle Rock and a few other choice spots. Power boat blocking a favorite hole before 6:00 a.m. Just to wait for their guide boat master to come and take over the hole.

butchandkate 12/25/13 - 12:24 am
Another Drift Only Day?

Be still my heart! In your wildest dreams do you honestly believe the BOF will consider placing the health of the river over the "rights" of the guide community to make a living from a public resource? You can only hope. Time and time again common sense has been trumped by the dollar. Until the management of the river is managed for the resource you can probably just keep on hoping. While I concur with Mr. Palmer's thought on letting the BOF know you support Proposals 237 and 238, I fear it will again fall on deaf ears. But, it never hurts to try. Who knows, stranger things have happened. Do you remember when you were able to keep 10 rainbows regardless of size? We almost took that fishery to the brink before something was done. Perhaps this will be the year the Board finally listens.

Paul Dale
Paul Dale 12/25/13 - 04:47 pm
Another Drift Only Day

Thanks for the fine article Les, it is worth imagining a better future for our river. The Board of Fish certainly tries to embody local opinion, I just don't think they accomplish it very well. In the end, it seems to be that the communication is really only between vested interest groups and their apparent advocates on the board. We need an improved process, but I appreciate your sentiment and support it, Thank you.

kenai123 01/03/14 - 04:00 am
the great drift boat only dream or nightmare?

Okay Les, so your story assumes too many of this, not enough of that on the Kenai River and we will fix it all with "a drift boat only Thursday". This is the same argument that was used to get "drift boat only Mondays". Obviously this is some kind of progressive drift boat only master plan. Like trying to cook a frog in boiling water, only he jumps out of the boiling water. So you turn up the heat slow and he just sits there until he is cooked to death? Okay so if a Kenai River drift boat conversion is your plan, why not place it directly on the table and openly allow the public to examine it?

Instead of speculating one day at a time, why not speculate that you have arrived at your drift boat only Kenai River goal? Why not try speculating at what would happen if everyone actually tried to fish the Kenai River with a drift boat? Power boats may be launched in lower river areas but can still fish upper river areas so they can spread out among boat launches but drift boats can only launch in upper areas and then fish below that. This inherent difference would then force all drift boats to launch only in the upper three boat launches and retrieve boats from the lower three launches. So instead of mindlessly meandering towards a drift boat only goal, why not try to estimate what would result if these drift boats all tried to fish just a single morning in July?

Lets see, I've counted 500 - 1000 boats fishing the Kenai from the Soldotna to Warren Ames Bridges. So lets say we're talking about 750 boats launching and loading from the six boat launches in the lower river. Each boat would no doubt desire to start as high as possible on the river so they would all head for the upper three launches, therefore attempting to force all 750 boats to only launch through the upper three launches. You could probably remove a third of these boats for being moored to the river bank and that would leaves about 500 boats to launch. If you divided 500 boat by the three boat launches that leaves 166 boats per launch, per morning. It takes about 5 minutes to launch or load a boat so 166 boats X 5 minutes each equals 830 minutes per location or 14 hours per day, per boat launch just to launch all these boats in the morning. The lower three boat launches would then be required to retrieve these same boats in the same way, in about the same 14 hours.

The last drift boat in the morning launch line at say 3 am., would then expect to hit the water around 14 hours later or about 5 pm. that day. After waiting 14 hours to launch, this angler would then expect to retrieve their boat about 14 hours after boats began loading up in the lower river. Would you go fishing if you thought it were possible that you would be required to wait more than a day just to launch and load your boat? Few if any would be willing to wait over a couple hours to launch & load a boat. An exclusive drift boat only fishery would then no doubt present potential anglers with extremely long launch and load lines. Few if any anglers would be willing to endure this kind of fishing future. Without a solution to this problem most of the public would surely be eliminated from fishing the Kenai River in your "drift boat only dream future".

I can only see two possible ways around this dilemma, discover a lot of money and build a bunch of new boat launches or create some kind of new launch / load timing system. I know of no funding sources for these new boat launches and such a timing system would no doubt be so diabolical that it would bleed "most of the fun" out of drift boat fishing.

Anyone who would suggest controlling these kind of drift boat numbers with lotteries or permits has absolutely NO IDEA what they are talking about. There aren't any "systems" to accomplish this because they would automatically create exclusive common user fisheries groups. It is illegal to create exclusives groups of common fisheries users in Alaska. The only way commercial fisheries got their limited entry was with a statewide Constitutional Amendment vote. The only "possible solution" would then be a statewide vote to create an exclusive limited entry, drift boat only, fishery system, which would then remove people from being able to fish the Kenai River.

Someone might ask, since we currently have one drift boat only day, why wouldn't it be okay or legal for more? The problem isn't creating drift boat only days or rivers, the problem is attempting to get drift boats to fish the same number of people being fished by our power boats. You can change any river to drift boat only but then you are forced to deal with the unintended consequence of a lot of people who used to fish the river. So it would end up being like a loop as the "drift boat only" would create so much confusion that you would need an "illegal limited entry system" just to control it. You theoretically might be able to get that voted in but would you want to be the guy who gets eliminated? It's all not even relevant Les if you don't own a drift boat, right? So I guess you are proposing this drift boat mess for everyone else, while you watch from the river bank?

I believe this all reveals a "cart before the horse" problem solving format. Wouldn't it be a better idea to first locate a "launch / load solution" for this situation BEFORE embarking on "the great drift boat only dream"? Lacking such a solution it appears foolish to embarking into THE GREAT DRIFT BOAT NIGHTMARE.

Anyone raising THE GREAT DRIFT BOAT ONLY DREAM to the Alaska Board of Fish, may want to actually think about what they are suggesting, before suggesting it.

kingsize 01/02/14 - 04:34 pm
Another Drift Boat Only Day,,,,,FORGET IT!!

What is with all you people?? The problem with the shortage of King Salmon in the Kenai River has nothing to do with the River or anyone fishing in it period!! The problem with the King Salmon low return numbers is due to what is happening in the Salt Water. ADF&G has probably already stumbled onto this fact as they refuse to release the data for 2013 King Salmon counts from both the Sonar sites. I think when ADF&G decides torelease this vital information everyone is going to be shocked at the low numbers. If they tell the truth! My bet is your not going to hear about it till the BOF meeting. Then just like every other BOF for Cook Inlet in the last 10yrs, they will pull "the rabbit out of the hat" trick they always do at the BOF, so that no one can review, challenge, revute or call BS before they give their presentation on what they want. Same old story!

Pengy is telling it like it is, it is a drift boat anchor drama on every Monday I have been there and I bet I am there as much as anyone.

Kenai123 hit on the nightmare Mondays already are from time to time. Sure lets add another nightmare on Thursdays.

Here is another interesting fact I have observed on Drift Boat Monday. There is no power boats, the river is quieter, the fish are calmer, not so alert and the drift boats are killing them like crazy because of it! When a King Salmon is not worried, scared, molested or disturbed, they are real suckers for any type of lure. I bet many more Kings are caught and killed on Monday's than on any other day of the week.

Palmer, you should be ashamed of yourself for wanting another day to slaughter more kings, and to limit all the older people from a chance to catch a Kenai River King on another day of the week, because they are just not capable or fit enough to row a drift boat. What a way to treat all the other Seniors that fish the Kenai River. Most of them have been fishing that river before most of the people out there today fishing and certainly they were there before all the people that drift boat fish it today.

Your article sounds like a "fix" for your own personal greed, not the health of the Kenai River and the King Salmon in it. Your not the first, another that recently lost a seat on the local AC has been spouting off about this issue for years. Looked to me like the commercial people in attendance were the only ones that voted for him. Thank goodness for locals that knew what his agenda was.

Been reading your column for decades and all I got to say is that it seems you have lost your mind with some of your comments as of the last few years. Not to mention your exploits into the fictional stories bordering on Porn, (the ranger and the girl). Next time you "snowbird" it to the lower 48, would you please consider staying there? No one would miss you that I know of as I have asked many in this community I have lived in for 40yrs.

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