Another 'drift-only' day

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