The great fishing, sunny weather, warm community hospitality, and scores of committed volunteers would have made the 9th Annual Kenai River Classic worth a million bucks, even if it didn't raise that many dollars, but it did.
According to Brett Huber, Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) executive director, preliminary numbers show that for the second straight year the Classic will surpass the one million dollar mark in gross revenues. Since it's inception the purpose of the celebrity event has been to raise money to benefit habitat restoration, fishery conservation and aquatic education efforts for the Kenai River and surrounding watersheds.
Since 1994, the Classic has raised and dedicated multiple millions of dollars toward these efforts and promoting responsible sport fishing. "The generosity of the sponsors and participants attending this year's Classic is a testament to the unparalleled beauty and tremendous importance of the Kenai River and its fisheries," said Huber.
Participants return to the weigh-in scales after the first day of fishing in the 9th Annual Kenai River Classic. The largest kept a 68 pounder.
The total number of Kenai kings landed this year was a Classic record of 349 fish, far more than any other year. Of the 349 landed, 279 were released unharmed for a rate of nearly 80 percent, another Classic record, up from the previous average of 65 percent. The largest fish retained was a 68-pound king, taken by Bill Chadboune, winning the "Classic Champion" honors.
Anthony Ennis was the "Catch & Release Champion" returning his 52-inch catch to the river. Taking the overall tournament honors and the "Ted Stevens Classic Champion Angler" award was Mark Hanley, of Anchorage, who landed 14 fish over the two-day event. Chuck Thomas earned the title of "Classic Champion Guide" by landing 27 fish, for his efforts Thomas claimed a new Yamaha 50/35 hp outboard motor compliments of Yamaha Marine, the primary sponsor of the 2002 Classic.
18 year old Whitney Biggs, as Miss Sockeye 2002, adds a touch of class at the weigh in scales of this year's Kenai River Classic.
"A great deal of credit for the success of the 2002 Classic can be directly attributed to the nearly 200 dedicated volunteers who give so selflessly of their time and hard work," noted Huber. "The Classic has grown into more than just a Kenai River Sportfishing Association event, it's now considered a community wide accomplishment."
At the closing of the traditional barbeque at Harry Gaines landing, KRSA Chairman Rik Bucy said, "This has been our most successful Classic to date, thanks to the efforts of our sponsors, participants, and volunteers, and especially our Co-hosts Senator Stevens and Governor Knowles. We can now look forward to continuing our efforts to preserve the greatest sport fishing river in the world, and the 10th Anniversary Kenai River Classic next July."
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