Net gains: Red run means added green for area businesses

Posted: Friday, July 18, 2003

Fishing license -- cha-ching! Neoprene chest waders -- cha-ching! Wading boots -- cha-ching! Fillet knife -- cha-ching! Dipnet -- cha-ching!

Filling the family freezer with fish to eat until next summer -- priceless.

The month of July generally brings a hearty group of Alaskans to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers' personal-use fisheries to pull in their limit of sockeye salmon. The result is a gold mine for area businesses selling merchandise for dipnetting.

"I think it's more important to the businesses in Soldotna than king fishing," said Terry Rahlfs, Fred Meyer store director.

"Red fishing has become the fishery in Soldotna. People plan their vacations around it."

Mike Kunz has made an entire subset to his Sterling welding business for the sake of the dipnet season. For the past five years, he has been manufacturing and selling nets.

Kunz's dipnets are made in an elliptical shape that creates less resistance to the currents and is fortified with a center beam running along the middle of the tube.

"I had my own extrusion die made," he said, noting that is the uniqueness of his nets.

Kunz said he expects to sell between 500 and 600 of his nets and said the rush to purchase dipnetting equipment has forced him to sideline many of his other welding jobs until the end of July.

"I sell about 20 a day," he said. "Usually the good part of the business is boats, but I have to cut it off at the beginning of June for manufacturing."

Another welding business in Kenai, Don Lazov's Kenai Welding, has taken advantage of its proximity to the Kenai River and Lazov's experience.

"People never used to get very many dipnets," he said. "Now, in the last two years, they're coming from all over the state."

On Monday, Soldotna Trust-worthy Hardware owner Paul Miller said his store saw a substantial boost in sales in the last two weeks.

"We might have beat the best day we had last year," he said. "Today we probably did 15 times what we do in March or April. And if you compare it to mid-January, our sales are almost 12 times as much.

"But it's only for two weeks."

According to figures from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, since 1998, the number of personal-use fishing permits distributed has grown to more than 17,500 fishers. And some families fished both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, said Fish and Game assistant area management biologist Pat Shields.

Doug Jung, manager of the Kenai Safeway, said his store has sold a tremendous number of resident licenses in July and has increased its sales from last year.

"Incredibly, it picks up this time of year," Jung said. "As compared to last year, we've done as good or better. Especially with Kmart gone, we're doing more licenses."

But not all aspects of the personal-fishing industry are feeling the tug created by fish entering dipnets.

Fish processors generally aren't able to distinguish between hooked salmon and netted salmon, said Echo Lake Superior Meats manager John Junkert. He said he still notices the difference.

"I don't know if it makes us that much more busy, but it is a significant amount," he said. "People from Fairbanks and Anchorage will bring in anywhere from 25 fish to 250 pounds."

"It does help a little bit, because, obviously, locals get such a volume that they don't want to deal with their fish," said Lisa Hanson, owner of Custom Seafood Processors in Soldotna.

Trustworthy owner Miller said as long as the reds keep swimming, there is money to be made.

"What drives our success is those slimy critters coming in the river."

BYLINE1:By MARCUS K. GARNER

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Fishing license -- cha-ching! Neoprene chest waders -- cha-ching! Wading boots -- cha-ching! Fillet knife -- cha-ching! Dipnet -- cha-ching!

Filling the family freezer with fish to eat until next summer -- priceless.

The month of July generally brings a hearty group of Alaskans to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers' personal-use fisheries to pull in their limit of sockeye salmon. The result is a gold mine for area businesses selling merchandise for dipnetting.

"I think it's more important to the businesses in Soldotna than king fishing," said Terry Rahlfs, Fred Meyer store director.

"Red fishing has become the fishery in Soldotna. People plan their vacations around it."

Mike Kunz has made an entire subset to his Sterling welding business for the sake of the dipnet season. For the past five years, he has been manufacturing and selling nets.

Kunz's dipnets are made in an elliptical shape that creates less resistance to the currents and is fortified with a center beam running along the middle of the tube.

"I had my own extrusion die made," he said, noting that is the uniqueness of his nets.

Kunz said he expects to sell between 500 and 600 of his nets and said the rush to purchase dipnetting equipment has forced him to sideline many of his other welding jobs until the end of July.

"I sell about 20 a day," he said. "Usually the good part of the business is boats, but I have to cut it off at the beginning of June for manufacturing."

Another welding business in Kenai, Don Lazov's Kenai Welding, has taken advantage of its proximity to the Kenai River and Lazov's experience.

"People never used to get very many dipnets," he said. "Now, in the last two years, they're coming from all over the state."

On Monday, Soldotna Trust-worthy Hardware owner Paul Miller said his store saw a substantial boost in sales in the last two weeks.

"We might have beat the best day we had last year," he said. "Today we probably did 15 times what we do in March or April. And if you compare it to mid-January, our sales are almost 12 times as much.

"But it's only for two weeks."

According to figures from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, since 1998, the number of personal-use fishing permits distributed has grown to more than 17,500 fishers. And some families fished both the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, said Fish and Game assistant area management biologist Pat Shields.

Doug Jung, manager of the Kenai Safeway, said his store has sold a tremendous number of resident licenses in July and has increased its sales from last year.

"Incredibly, it picks up this time of year," Jung said. "As compared to last year, we've done as good or better. Especially with Kmart gone, we're doing more licenses."

But not all aspects of the personal-fishing industry are feeling the tug created by fish entering dipnets.

Fish processors generally aren't able to distinguish between hooked salmon and netted salmon, said Echo Lake Superior Meats manager John Junkert. He said he still notices the difference.

"I don't know if it makes us that much more busy, but it is a significant amount," he said. "People from Fairbanks and Anchorage will bring in anywhere from 25 fish to 250 pounds."

"It does help a little bit, because, obviously, locals get such a volume that they don't want to deal with their fish," said Lisa Hanson, owner of Custom Seafood Processors in Soldotna.

Trustworthy owner Miller said as long as the reds keep swimming, there is money to be made.

"What drives our success is those slimy critters coming in the river."



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