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Kenai River Classic Celebrates 20 Years!

Annual Event Switches to Silver Salmon Fishing, But Remains an Important Venue For Fisheries Education and Research, Habitat and Conservation Efforts on the Kenai River

SOLDOTNA – More than 100 people and dozens of volunteers showed their support for the Kenai River this week by participating in the annual Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) Kenai River Classic. For the first time in 20 years, the fishing fundraising event was moved from July to August and anglers fished for silver instead of king salmon. The fishing was great, but the purpose of the event – to educate policymakers, corporate officials and fishing enthusiasts on how important it is to take care of the Kenai River and its fisheries resources – hasn’t changed.

Highlights of this year’s events included a first-ever “Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing” on Wednesday with Sen. Mark Begich. Representatives from leading national sportfishing interests including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Center for Coastal Conservation, the American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association joined KRSA to share some of the issues facing recreational fisheries. They urged Begich to make sure that recreational fishing is better addressed when the Magnuson-Stevens Act is reauthorized in 2014. On Tuesday, Classic participants held a Legislative update from officials with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and Alaska State Parks. They also received an update on smolt and fish tracking technology that has successfully been deployed in Canada and is starting to be implemented in Cook Inlet to give us valuable information about where fish go once they leave the river systems.

The 2013 Kenai River Classic also gave an especially important boost to the local economy. The three-day fundraising event, held August 19-21, contributed more than $500,000 to the Kenai/Soldotna economy through participant lodging, food, guides, tours and transportation. Funds raised through participant and sponsor fees and auction proceeds are used for habitat restoration, angler access and education, fisheries management and research, and other conservation efforts on the Kenai River and other Southcentral Alaska watersheds. More than 100 dedicated volunteers and local businesses donated time, services and auction items to make the Classic a success.

Nearly 400 people attended the annual auction and banquet at Soldotna Sports Center Tuesday evening. At that time, Kenai River Classic Honorary Host Sen. Lisa Murkowski presented Reuben Hanke, owner of Harry Gaines Guide Service and a longtime KRSA board member, with the Kenai River Guardian Award for his dedication to Kenai River conservation. Alaska Sen. Kevin Meyer was honored with the Alaska Legislative Sportfishing Advocate of the Year award. Presenting sponsor of this year’s Classic was Yamaha. BP Alaska sponsored the Welcome Dinner, ConocoPhillips and Shell Oil sponsored fishing activities and Alaska Airlines and Home Depot sponsored the Classic Banquet.

The Kenai River Classic Cup went to Omar Garcia of South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable (STEER) for catching a 13.1-pound silver. Second place went to Mitch Hunter of Yamaha with a 12.6-pound fish and Rep. Wes Keller took third place with a 12.5-pound silver. Kenai River Guide Val Early won the Yamaha “Celebrate the Guides” Luck of the Draw engine.

Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) is a 501 (c) 3 charitable non-profit, fishery conservation organization of sport anglers, conservationists and others whose primary goal is to preserve and improve salmon habitat while promoting responsible sportfishing on the Kenai River. Learn more at www.krsa.com.

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