The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed a 30-foot stretch of riverbank on the Kenai to anglers.
"The soils are always waterlogged. They are extremely fragile. Any use by people tends to break down the bank," said Larry Marsh, assistant area management biologist for Fish and Game.
As of 12:01 a.m., Saturday, an area on the north bank of the Kenai River between a Fish and Game regulatory marker at the upstream confluence of Soldotna Creek with the Kenai River upstream approximately 30 feet to another regulatory marker on the Kenai River, is closed to fishing within 10 feet of the waterline in either direction.
The closure is in effect through Aug. 15.
The area closed is part of what is known as riparian bank habitats. Riparian banks are calm water zones that support rearing of fry. Marsh said that trout spend a considerable portion of their lives in such areas and that salmon spend one to three years developing near the banks.
Marsh said that the habitat is not impacted from people fishing in the water. He said damage occurs when people are entering and exiting the river.
"If people can go immediately to the water, and if they'd travel back and forth in the water, they won't harm the habitat. It's when people stand on the bank fishing that they trample the vegetation."
Marsh said he is as vexed as anyone else by the problem.
"It's a conundrum. I like to fish out there myself. It's a thoroughly enjoyable activity."
Marsh said he can sympathize with anglers because there are too few places which offer bank-friendly river access.
However, Marsh said the dilemma is no excuse for walking off the beaten path.
"I was down there yesterday( Friday), and they were not respecting the area. There was already a network of trails. It looked like water buffalo had been there."
Marsh said multiple organizations are beginning to recognize the problem of shoreline erosion, and, incrementally, resource agencies are developing controlled access to the water.
"We don't have developed and dedicated access for most of these locations along the river. If we had the money and oversight we could minimize the impact."
Marsh said the new markers are easy to spot and that anglers should have no question as to which area is off limits.
"They are most readily identifiable," he said. "And the area is just a 30-foot stretch."
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