With fishing season just weeks away, central Kenai Peninsula businesses already are stocking their shelves in preparation for the shopping frenzy that occurs annually as anglers begin to make preseason purchases.
"Yes, we are going to carry fishing supplies," said Terry Rahlfs, store manager for the Home Depot in Kenai. "I'm pretty excited about it. It will be a fairly full assortment that tentatively will be in by May 1."
This comes as good news to many peninsula residents who purchased their fishing supplies from Big Kmart, which was in the same location before Home Depot's arrival.
Rahlfs added that selling fishing gear and tackle will be "unique" to the Kenai store, since no other Home Depot in the chain carries the supplies.
In Soldotna,Fred Meyer also is busy stocking its shelves with rods, reels, landing nets and other tackle.
"We're getting ready. We've expanded our set-up by 168-linear feet of sports gear to keep up with the demand," said store manager Ron Delaney.
He said the expansion came as a result of how "out of control" last year was with fishing items zipping off the shelves as fast as they were being stocked.
"This year we've gone by customer request more than anything else," Delaney said in regard to what types of fishing tackle the store would stock.
"We want to ensure that we'll have all the requested items. Most everything should be in place by the end of the week, so every indication is it's going to be a great year," he said.
Soldotna Trustworthy Hard-ware hasn't completely stocked their shelves yet, but that hasn't stopped them from doing lots of fishing-related business.
"The guides are already in here shopping. They like to start early, so we've been spooling line and selling a lot to them as they get ready for the season," said store manager Scott Miller.
He said the store should have all fishing-related items out by the beginning of the week. Many products will be the usual staples for almost any angler, but there also will be several new items that have just hit the market.
"The hot, new item for this year is the Luhr Jensen 16x Kwikfish Extreme," said Miller. "We've already completely sold out of our first order."
The Kwikfish is always a popular lure with those setting their sights on king salmon, but this new version is reported to dive harder and run deeper without any tuning.
In addition to the new "extreme" model, Miller said Trustworthy will stock more than 20 new colors for the original Kwikfish.
"Most of the colors we've come up with through personal observation, or from talking with the guides," Miller said.
Not every store in town is hurriedly stocking their shelves.
"We never take our items down," said Ray Vinzant, an employee at the Fishin' Hole in Soldotna.
The shop caters to the needs of anglers year-round, and Vinzant said people fishing for winter kings make up some of their off-season business.
"We'll also bring in the spring supply of tackle in early May," he said.
As with the new fishing season, comes the new fishing regulations. The 2004 Sport Fishing Regulations Summary for Southcentral Alaska already has been printed.
"The new regulations are out, even though they don't go into effect until the 15th," said Alaska Department of Fish and Game employee Sandi Seagren. "We have them here (at the Fish and Game office in Soldotna), and they will be delivered to the vendors next week."
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