The Kenai River is a popular place to fish, for many reasons. There are times of the year in which the traffic is heavy, both on shore as well as boats. Heavy traffic lends itself to many opportunities for conflict, but if people follow a handful of simple rules, most of those conflicts can be avoided.
1. Don’t “Low Hole”
Everyone knows the feeling of hitting your lines perfectly, expecting a bite at any second, only to have another boat run right up behind you only stopping once they’re basically on top of your gear… frustrating right? Maybe you were going to get a bite, maybe not, but low-holing is uncool nonetheless. Low-holing can happen when back-trolling, back-bouncing, drifting, and even while wading. Just be considerate of others and remember that a fish isn’t worth it.
2. Wave Back
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s shocking how many anglers refuse to wave back on the river. It doesn’t matter if you’re best friends with the person that waved at you or not, so staring at them trying to figure out who they are should only happen after you waved back! If someone waves at you at the grocery store or at work, you’d wave back right? So just go ahead and wave back at other boaters/anglers on the river as well; some simple manners can go a long way to ease tension and improve comradery on the river.
3. Follow the Conventional Running Lanes
Every river has customary running lanes that have been developed over the years. The only way to know where these lanes are is to experience the river during high traffic times. A great way to learn these lanes is to ride along with an experienced boat operator several times before navigating the river yourself, or consider drifting the river a couple times before running around at 30 mph. And if you’re ever unsure, just slow down. I hope the dip-netters that launch at Eagle Rock/the Pillars are reading this!
4. Stand Up When You Drive
There are exceptions, but the vast majority of boats that run the Kenai require that you stand up in order to see everything in front of you. I’ve had to dodge sitting boat drivers that couldn’t see over their bow multiple times over the years, and thank goodness I was paying attention!
5. Be Constructive
Yelling and screaming at someone that commits what you perceive to be a foul on the river doesn’t do any good unless you provide a suggestion how to fix it. Unfortunately, some people get their kicks from making other people feel bad, and don’t accomplish anything in the process other than making themselves look like a jerk. I can’t stress enough to remember that everyone starts as a beginner out there, so being a mentor to them (rather than a critic) can go a long way!
6. Never Ask In Front of Clients (guide specific)
This one is a personal pet-peeve of mine, so let me know if you don’t agree. A guide should never strike up a conversation about how many fish they caught in front of clients. I realize people get curious, but it’s nothing but a lose-lose situation! If the guide asking caught fish and the other didn’t, then the question only serves to drive in the fact that they had a tough day. If the guide asking didn’t catch fish and the other did, then it forces the other guide to rub it in. Just wait until the clients are out of the boat and ask privately, please.
7. Yield to Fish On
This rule is especially important when we’re talking king salmon because a hot king can run from bank to bank and back, and the angler often can’t do anything about it. But this rule can come in to play with silver salmon as well, and even a big trout. I’ve seen several scenarios in which a big silver runs directly at another boat’s anchor rope, and the other boat refuses to move. In their mind it’s silver season, and getting out of the way of another boat with a fish on only applies to king salmon in June and July… WRONG! Just throw the anchor buoy and sacrifice 1 minute or less of fishing time so that the other guy can increase his chances of landing his fish. In short, don’t be selfish.
8. Be Friendly At The Dock
It’s difficult to impossible to have a meaningful conversation out on the river from boat to boat, so the time to connect with other anglers is at the dock. Cherish this valuable time, and use it to say hello to familiar faces, ask about their day, talk fishing, and make/enhance friendships.