The world-class fishing and scenic boating opportunities on the upper Kenai are no longer a secret. Crowds at the confluence of the Russian and Kenai rivers have long been the norm, as anglers battle elbow to eyeball for sockeye. And any fishing guide will tell you the upper Kenai is getting more crowded in other areas too, as more people try their luck chasing rainbows and Dolly Varden, as well as salmon.
If you boated on the upper Kenai last summer, perhaps you met one of the Fish and Wildlife Service survey technicians at Jim's Landing someone recording which boats were guided, whether visitors were fishing (and for what) and which boats continued into the Kenai River Canyon.
Last summer's surveys were the latest in a series of visitor interviews at Jim's Landing. The objective of these surveys was not to count every boat on the water but to develop an index to reveal trends over the years. Information collected in 1994, 1999, and 2004 shows an increase in the numbers of boaters on the upper Kenai River.
In 31 survey days last summer, 6,473 visitors in 1,723 boats were recorded. Most of these visitors (66 percent) were anglers. Guided and unguided visitors were evenly split, with 51 percent guided. Of the total, 15 percent of the visitors entered the Kenai River Canyon. Those who did were generally guided and generally scenic boaters.
Survey technicians also asked boating parties about their residence. Almost half of the parties were Alaska residents (49 percent), with nine percent residing on the Kenai Peninsula and 40 percent residing elsewhere in the state. Non-residents constituted 22 percent of parties. Eighteen percent of the boats were filled with visitors hailing from multiple locations; most of these were a mix of non-local Alaska residents and non-residents. The residence of the remaining 11 percent was unknown; most of these boats floated past Jim's Landing into Kenai River Canyon so they could not be interviewed.
The average number of visitors surveyed per day on the upper Kenai River has increased over the last 10 years. The most dramatic increase has been observed with unguided anglers, which have more than doubled since 1994. Scenic boaters were not recorded during the 1994 survey, but have increased in the last five years. The total number of visitors surveyed per day on the upper Kenai increased from an average of 122 in 1999, to 161 in 2004.
Future management plans for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will take these numbers into consideration.
So if you're planning to fish or float the upper Kenai, you are in for a memorable experience with spectacular scenery, beautiful fish, and plenty of company.
Julie Laker is a biological technician at the Kenai Fish and Wildlife Field Office.
Previous Refuge Notebook articles can be viewed on our Web site at http://kenai.fws. gov/. You can check on new bird arrivals or report your bird sighting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Birding Hotline (907) 262-2300.
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