Options remain limited for drift boat haulout

Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2010

There is no public boat ramp to take out on the Kasilof River. And this is not news to anglers or guides who regularly fish in the Kenai River's sister to the south.

Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Drift boat anglers get under way at the public launch just above the Sterling Highway bridge recently. Some would like to see more options for getting their boats out of the river.

"It is a serious problem," said Matt Duncan, owner and guide of X Stream Alaska Fishing. Last year and earlier this month, "it did get to the point where people were waiting for three hours to pull out," he said.

Too many boats and not enough places, especially publicly-owned ones, to haul out has been an ongoing problem on the Kasilof.

The State Division of Parks manages two areas above the Kasilof River bridge where anglers can access the river -- the Kasilof River State Recreation Site boat launch and the Crooked Creek State Recreation Site bank access.

The two take-out sites below the bridge -- Cohoe Cove Campground and the Kasilof Cabins -- are privately owned and operated.

"Those are the two where a person would be able to pull out. Of course they pay a fee to pull out there," said Jack Sinclair, Kenai area superintendent for the Division of State Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

He said that there is a need for a state-owned take-out site, but because the Kasilof is not a unit of the state parks system like the legislatively-designated Kenai River, management of the Kasilof is a bit trickier. Besides the few parcels of state-owned land along the river, there is no legislative or statutory authority on the river.

"The flowing waters are managed by the state of Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water," he said. "We don't manage the river and don't manage guides on the river."

The state does not own any land on the Kasilof River that would be conducive to a public boat haulout.

"There's no state-owned land that would be viable or buildable," said Paul Cyr, statewide access coordinator for the Department of Fish and Game's sportfish division.

A couple years ago in response to requests form area anglers and boaters, Fish and Game and the Department of Natural Resources proposed a boat landing that, due to federal funding sources, would have to accommodate drift boaters and power boaters.

"Everybody realizes there's a need but they definitely did not want a power boat launch," Cyr said. "A lot of people don't want to hear the power boats ripping up and down the river."

The Kasilof River is open to all boat usage but anglers can only fish for king salmon out of drift boats, Cyr said.

"Really a powerboat launch is not needed but a drift boat pullout is what's needed," he said.

The state was interested in buying the old Trujillo's Landing for a public site but the owners decided not to sell it.

Little land prospects and funding restrictions have left the access issue where it is today.

"Most guides take out at Kasilof Cabins. It's one of the only places you can go anymore," Duncan said. The daily take-out fee is $25 for the Kasilof Cabins.

He said the Cohoe Cove boat landing is too far upstream for a good day's trip. But, the Kasilof Cabins landing is closer to the mouth of the river, which can be a long haul for boaters.

"If you don't have a motor that you can use on your drift boat it can be hard to paddle all the way down there," he said.

To avert the fees and waiting lines, some anglers will even boat all the way down the Kasilof to Cook Inlet to land at the beach.

"It's a great way to lose your truck," Duncan said.

Duncan said that when the Kenai was shortly closed due to the poor run early in the season the Kasilof was crowded with fishers.

He anticipates that on Mondays when the Kenai is closed to guided fishing, the Kasilof will be full of activity.

"Everybody doing a king salmon trip on a Monday in July will be in the Kasilof."

Duncan said he's learned to work around it and watch the river traffic.

"If you don't time yourself right you're caught up in the midst of 30 boats," he said. "It can be a serious disaster down there if you don't plan it right."

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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