Why are Kenai River Guides so smart?  They go to school!

The Kenai River is arguably the most popular river in Alaska.  It receives about 500,000 visitors a year from all over the world.  Fishing in the Kenai River is the number one draw according to tourism surveys.  It is also a very popular vacation destination for Alaskans.  And it’s no wonder!  The Kenai River boasts strong runs of Sockeye Salmon, premier fishing for trout, and is located a short drive from the most populous city in Alaska.  Not to mention that the Alaska State Record King Salmon was also caught in the Kenai River.

However, the accessibility of the Kenai River also raises concerns among those who are responsible for its welfare.  The Kenai River is actually an Alaska State Park.  Therefore, it is managed by the Alaska State Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation (DPOR).  In 2004, along with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Kenai River Professional Guides Association, and the Kenai Peninsula College, the DPOR collaborated to create the Kenai River Guide Academy – a certification program required for anyone wanting to guide on the Kenai River.

The Goal of the Kenai River Guide Academy

The goal of the certification program is to educate Kenai River Guides to be knowledgeable stewards of this incredible resource.  The course curriculum covers fish and game regulations, safety, guide ethics and behavior, habitat, and conservation.  In order to apply for and receive a guide license for the Kenai River, all prospective guides must complete and pass this course.

In speaking with Kenai River guides about the academy, all agreed that they learned a great deal and that the resource would be better for it.  The Kenai River Guide Academy is 5 days long, culminating in both a written and oral exam.  The panel chosen for the oral exam may be a combination of state or federal resource management personnel, biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or the Kenai Peninsula College, members of the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association or Kenai River Professional Guides Association, and other current experienced Kenai River Guides.  It is definitely a serious undertaking and studying is required.  Neither the written or the oral exam questions will ask you about your favorite fly or bait for fishing for Kings or Rainbow Trout.  However, they will pose both regulatory and ethical questions.  Safety is also a major concern.  Successful candidates will have paid attention in class, asked questions when necessary, and studied for the exams.  The Kenai Peninsula College (University of Alaska) grants 3 credits for successful completion of the course.

Knowledge is power

Knowledge of the resource and the various impacts on it is important.  It can help guides make smart choices when faced with important decisions.  It provides an additional knowledge base that can be shared with other users of the resource, like clients.  The Kenai River Guide Academy is an important introduction to the Kenai River ecosystem and the guiding industry for anyone working in the fishing/tourism industry on the Kenai River.

Knowing the Kenai River Regulations

Anyone who has opened the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Sport Fishing Regulations Summary and turned to the section for the Kenai River can attest, there is an overwhelming amount of information to absorb.  There are fishing regulations for different sections of the Kenai River, varying means and methods allowed at different times of the year, and specific river mile markers cited as boundaries of even more special regulations and seasonal closures.  There are special regulations to ensure the safe, responsible, and enjoyable use of the resource.  I am continually studying the summary of regulations in order to make sure I get it right.  Additionally, as I boat up and down the river, I am continually quizzing myself and identifying the locations of the various special regulation areas.

When I have clients who are interested, I help orient them to the regulations and show them the various boundary markers and signs the agencies put up on the riverbanks.  It can be a little intimidating for someone new to the river.  If you are traveling to the Kenai River on a do-it-yourself fishing trip and need more information be sure to look up the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or the Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.  Both agencies have local offices and readily respond to visitor’s questions and inquiries by phone or in person.  And, if you are hiring a guide to enjoy a day of fishing on the Kenai River, rest assured, they graduated from the academy.