After a year of representing private and non-guided anglers and providing a scientific voice for the Kenai River, the Kenai Area Fisherman's Coalition (KAFC) will open its doors Thursday to the general public and give folks a chance to ask questions and get to know the people involved.
"The entire board of directors will be there," said Dwight Kramer, a board member and acting secretary. "It's an opportunity for the public to come and ask questions and get familiar with organization goals and objectives. We want to hear the concerns the public has about fisheries issues in the local area."
KAFC's meet and greet event will be Thursday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Kenai River Center on Funny River Road in Soldotna.
In addition to introducing itself to the community the event will provide a forum for the public to ask questions and express their view points on fisheries issues.
Board members also hope the event will encourage more people to become group members.
"There have been some charges out there that we represent a very small group of folks," said Dave Athons, a member of the KAFC board of directors, adding that anyone who is concerned about fisheries management and long-term sustainability of the watershed should join the group.
"We're open to general membership. It's important for the public (to) get to know who we are so they can understand that this is an open group."
Local fishermen and scientists started the Kenai Area Fisherman's Coalition last year in order to create a voice for private and non-guided anglers fishing the Kenai River. Kramer said local guides are represented by the Guides Association and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association. Up until a year ago, he said, private anglers haven't been represented at all.
"The unguided (anglers) just haven't had representation until now, and we're trying to fill that void," Kramer said.
Athons said in addition to being made up of local fishermen a lot of retired area biologists and fish managers have positions on the board of directors as well.
"We believe in scientific-based fisheries management," he said. "We don't advocate from an economic perspective."
Athons said one of the main issues the KAFC concerns itself with is the controversy involving two-stroke motors on the Kenai River and the hydrocarbon problem the water body faces.
The group plans to actively participate in the Board of Fisheries process and has already come up with too many proposals for Athons to remember.
In an e-mail, Kramer wrote that the main difference between the KAFC and other organizations on the river is that the other groups advocate the "fishing opportunity," while the KAFC represents unguided anglers and resource users. "Our focus is to find a balance between user groups," he said, "rekindle a sense of enjoyment in the fishing experience and protection of our resources for future generations."
Athons said he hopes new members and general members will come and visit, but he also hopes the event will attract a curious public who wants to learn more about the group and who are concerned about fisheries issues on the Kenai River.
"Fisheries habitat concerns anyone that has concerns regarding the Kenai River," he said.
"We'd sure like to hear from them and have them come and find out who we are and hopefully there will be an interchange of ideas on both sides."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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