Sport fishing guides forced to roll with new king restrictions on Kenai River
Ben Collier grew up in Seward and has been fishing commercially and working as a sport guide for almost 40 years. With the latest restrictions on king salmon sportfishing on the Kenai River, Collier says he's been doing some "damage control" with some of his clients who booked tours with him in February, expecting to be fishing for king salmon.
"I liken king salmon fishing to elk hunting," Collier said. "It's like, sometimes you go elk hunting and don't pull the trigger. Sometimes you don't even see an animal. With king fishing, people are not paying to catch a king. They are paying for the opportunity to get a chance at one of these fish someday."
The regulations on king salmon on the Kenai River have grown as the season moves along.
"It started out where we could retain one fish under 36 inches," Collier said. "Then the angler marks in down on their license and they are done for the day. Then it turned into a catch and release fishery. Most of the guides I know on the river love these fish."
The draw for most people is that the fish could reach 60, 70 and even 80 pounds. There is not too many places around the world someone can catch a fish like that.
"Right now, that fishery is in a little bit of trouble," Collier said. "Fish and Game is looking out for the fish and we all are looking out for the fish. It's a good time to focus on other fisheries, go after some rainbows and some sockeye. There is still a king fishery on the Kasilof. There is lots of other stuff to do, great stuff."
Collier has an agreement with Jason Foster at Foster's Alaska Cabins in Kenai. The pair works together in trying to provide guests with the best trip possible.
"We have live music probably three nights a week," Foster said. "It's really interesting to meet with people from all over the world. To hear about all of their adventures. Some are here for fishing but others are here for camping and hiking. At night, we all meet under the tent and talk about our adventures. It's really a comfortable atmosphere and that's what Alaska is all about."
The two men just started their partnership last fall.
"He's got the cabins, five cabins and the clients coming," Collier said. "They all want to either go fishing or do something Alaskan. Jason has all kinds of contacts."
Collier says when it comes to the king salmon restrictions, for the most part, his clients have been understanding.
"Some of the clients are a little stressed out and a little nervous about not being able to catch a big king but they can come to do other things," Collier said. "Take them to catch some nice big rainbows or take them out and get a cooler of sockeye or maybe you go over to the Kasilof and have an opportunity to catch a king there. There is still lots of fun stuff to do besides chase the giant king on the Kenai."
In the meantime, Collier and his boat partner and dog, Nanook, will make the best of the situation.
"The goal is to keep this nice big fish," Collier said. "No one has canceled on me. People want to get out in Alaska. If people do have concerns, I try to head it off. I call them first and just let them know what's going on out here. That it's a preservation measure to keep this fish here for a long time."
For more information on Trophy Drifters, click here.
For information on Foster's Alaska Cabins click here.
For the latest updates from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, click here.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.