Academy teaches ethics, history, management issues to fishing pros

Guides learning river rules

Posted: Friday, March 24, 2006

This year’s first run of Kenai River guides entered the new Kenai River Guide Academy this week. The academy is a weeklong course that will soon be required for Kenai River commercial guide permit holders.

The course is the product of more than two years of work by various organizations and agencies to create a certification program for Kenai River fishing guides.

The course is not required until 2007, and even then will only be required for new guides. Guides with five or more years of experience can delay taking the course for up to five years, depending on how many years of experience they have. This week more than 20 guides showed up for class, all with five or more years of experience.

The course curriculum, designed by the Kenai River Working Group, trains guides on regulations, safety, habitat, conservation and guide ethics and behavior.

“It’s definitely worth the time,” said Adam Reid, who has been guiding for seven years and is attending the class. “Guides and nonguides could get something out of it.”

The $206 course sets a vigorous schedule, requiring nine or more hours of class time a day Monday through Thursday, including a final written exam and a six-question oral test on Friday. Each day features a series of instructors giving lectures and facilitating discussions on everything from the history of the Kenai River to how Kenai River fisheries management plans impact the movement of fish into the river.

In an ethics discussion during Tuesday’s class, guides said the scenarios presented, such as how a guide should respond when clients are accumulating more fish than they plan to use or when neighboring fishermen use illegal practices, were realistic and easy to relate to.

“They’re all kind of situations that we run into every day,” said Avery Hansen, who has been guiding for six years.

This week’s class was not advertised except by word of mouth, said Gary Turner, director of Kenai Peninsula College.

Since this is the first time the academy is offering the class, more experienced guides were encouraged to attend so that their recommendations could be used to fine-tune the course before it is offered again in April.

Steve McClure, president of the Kenai River Professional Guides Association who is attending this week’s class, said the only critique he has heard so far is that the course should focus more on information and issues concerning the Kenai River.

“The sad part is we only have a week,” he said.

Reid said the overall professionalism of guides on the river is high and that the course will be most instructive for new guides, but still should not be limited to new guides.

“Over 99 percent of the time everybody handles everything right,” he said. “But you always remember the one time somebody doesn’t.”

In light of the great demand for fishing on the river, the level of cooperation and coordination between the river’s user groups is actually quite impressive, he said.

“The river does get crowded, but it’s really organized,” he said. “Even though it sometimes looks like it isn’t.”

Although none of the guides attending the academy’s first course were grumbling about having to take a week of their time, and money out of their pockets, to take the class, other guides have been resistant to the idea of having to take a class, McClure said.

McClure said that he predicts the class will receive more resistance from experienced guides than from new guides.

“All the new guides love it,” he said. “They’re more willing to accept change.”

However, without first listening to the reasons behind requiring the course, some of the more experienced guides my feel that the course is a needless waste of their time and money, he said.

“(Guides that) sit down and listen to the reasons behind the class ... those guides have said, ‘Yeah, you’re right,’” he said.

And, as the academy’s first class of students demonstrates, many experienced guides support the class, Turner said.

“None of these guides would have to be here until 2009,” he said.

One of the guides attending the class has more than 20 years of experience, Turner said.

“He said, ‘This is what I need to do to set a good example for the new guides,’” Turner said.

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