Overcrowding prompts restriction of popular private Kasilof River ramp

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2001

KENAI (AP) -- It's May and the fishing season is just starting but the battle lines are already being drawn on the Kasilof River.

Anglers say the problem is too many boats and not enough places to haul out.

Starting this year, the gate to a private boat ramp on the north shore of the lower Kasilof, will be closed, and only guides with a key will be able to get in. The ramp is owned by the Trujillo family and has been open to all comers for a $10 use fee for the past 15 years.

Jim Trujillo said the growing crush of people using the river prompted the change.

''I can't bear the brunt of the whole fishing industry on the Kasilof River,'' he said. ''It's reached a point where the state has to step in and get more access points.''

Trujillo estimated that 70 percent of the boats fishing the Kasilof came out of the river at his place last summer. He declined to estimate how much money he earned from the fees.

''I've never done an actual trip count,'' he told the Peninsula Clarion. ''Let's just put it this way: It was getting to be too much.''

As many as 300 vehicles were driving through his yard each day at the peak of the 2000 fishing season. They began about 4 a.m. and ran until midnight.

His family and neighbors began complaining about the traffic, dust, litter and speeders. And the noise. At the end of last summer he knew he had to draw the line.

The general public is welcome to use the ramp for personal use, but he is trying to reduce commercial traffic, he said. He is issuing keys to commercial guides who use his fish processing service, Ed's Kasilof Seafoods, and have used the site regularly over the years.

Trujillo said those guides have supported him and his business, and he owes them the courtesy of continued access. He has given out about 40 keys so far, and is still deciding how many to issue in total. He dismissed rumors that he is trying to get Alaska State Parks to purchase his property.

''My property has been taken off the market,'' he said.

In the past he tried to sell it, but now wants to keep the place as a permanent home and raise his child there, he said.

Chris Degernes, the Alaska State Parks superintendent for the Kenai area, said Tuesday she knows of no deal in the works. Years ago, the Trujillos approached State Parks about selling the property through the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council's habitat acquisition program, but nothing came of it. No new transactions have been proposed through her office, she said.

Meanwhile, the guides without keys are casting about for alternatives.

Steve Poitry, who runs Poitry in Motion charters, does not have a key. He said he sympathizes with Trujillo's traffic problem but doesn't like the way things are shaking out.

''It doesn't encourage anyone to use his business,'' he said of Trujillo's fish plant.

''I've been using him for 12 years, and now I've been told I can't. ... I have heard some resentment among other guides.''

All involved agreed that the problem comes down to more and more fishing pressure on limited Kenai Peninsula rivers.

Said Trujillo, ''It's a small river, and there are just too many people on it now.''

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