Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) concluded its 16th annual Kenai River Classic last week, with participants departing for home with a renewed understanding of why the Kenai River is worth preserving. Funds raised at the annual fishing event through participant and sponsor fees, as well as auction proceeds, will be used for habitat restoration, angler access and education, fisheries management and research, and other conservation efforts on the Kenai River and additional South-central Alaska watersheds.
The 2009 Kenai River Classic also provided a much-needed boost to the local economy, with an estimated $300,000+ being spent for lodging, food, guides, tours and transportation. More than 200 dedicated volunteers and local businesses donated their time and energy, as well as services and auction items, to make the event a success. During the two-day event, 106 king salmon were caught and 52 were released. Mother Nature blessed the event with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s.
"This year's Kenai River Classic was an important opportunity to educate business, community and political leaders from across the state and nation on why we need to continue our efforts to preserve the Kenai River," said Classic Chair Jim Golden.
Classic participants had the opportunity to attend a roundtable discussion on fishery and management issues, attended two barbecues and fished for two days for king salmon on the Kenai River. Nearly 500 people attended the annual auction and banquet at Soldotna Sports Center where "Art in Action" finger and brush painter Brian Olsen amazed the crowd, painting three portraits - one of Teddy Roosevelt, another of John Wayne and a third of the KRSA fish logo in less time than it took him to land his very first king salmon. "I paint to music with as many as six brushes at a time or just my fingers. A friend told me once I've taken finger painting from kindergarten to grad school, but it shows that sometimes you don't need tools to get the job done. But today was my first time king salmon fishing and was lucky enough to catch a 40-plus pound king and that was also art in action," said Olsen. Brian's original works were then sold at auction to benefit the habitat of the Kenai River.
Several recognition awards were handed out at the Classic Banquet. Phil Dyskow of Yamaha was awarded the Kenai River Guardian Award for lifetime achievement. Dyskow and his company, Yamaha, has been the long-time major sponsor of the Kenai River Classic and have been an important partner in the effort to switch to cleaner, more efficient four-stroke motors on the Kenai River. Kenai River fishing guide, Mike Fenton, received the Professional Sportsman of the Year Award. Fenton co-chairs the Wounded Warrior fishing program put on by the Kenai River Professional Guide Association. For the second year in a row, Silver Star recipient SFC Sean Bennett accumulated the most Classic points to claim the Classic Champion Angler award, the first time that has been achieved in the history of the Classic. "I really want to thank my sponsor Dick Ladd for giving me the opportunity to fish in this event, these trophies go right on my mantel with my military awards that I hold in high regard," said Sgt. Bennett. The largest king was caught by David Lawrence of Shell Oil, landing a 56 lb fish and the title of King of the Kenai River.
Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) is a non-profit, membership-based educational and conservation organization of sport anglers, conservationists and others whose primary goal is to preserve and improve salmon habitat while promoting responsible sport fishing on the Kenai River. Learn more at www.kenairiversportfishing.com
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