Jury convicts man of illegally guiding in 2017

A man accused of guiding fishing clients illegally on the Kenai River in 2017 was convicted in June.

A jury in Kenai found William Hollandsworth of the Soldotna area guilty on a number of counts related to taking people fishing on the Kenai River in exchange for payment without a permit. The incidents listed in the charges go back as far as May 2017; the state charged Hollandsworth in August 2017.

The trial in Kenai went on for several days and included testimony from two people who said they paid Hollandsworth to go fishing. He said the people he took fishing were acquaintances or friends and the money they paid was reimbursement for gas, tackle and food. Each of the clients said they paid between $225–$300 for the fishing trip and did not know Hollandsworth as a friend before going fishing with him. He does not currently have a Kenai River sportfishing guide license.

Kenai River guides are required to pay a fee and take a week-long class called the Kenai River Guide Academy before guiding on the river. The regulations on the Kenai River are extensive for guides, with particular days blocked out and guides only allowed on the water between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., among other safety and documentation requirements.

The Alaska Department of Parks and Outdoor Recreation heard about the potential violation from other river users and investigated in July 2017. Once the initial investigation was complete, Parks and Outdoor Recreation worked with the Alaska Department of Law to prosecute it. Kenai area Parks and Outdoor Recreation Supervisor Jack Blackwell gave credit to the Department of Law for pursuing the charges.

“I think it’s fair to say that this particular case took a fair amount of resources to investigate, and I think that’s the case for a lot of cases of illegal guiding,” Blackwell said.

He added that most of the guides operating on the Kenai River are doing so legally and ethically.

The prosecutors had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hollandsworth was being paid for sportfish guiding, which he said throughout the trial was not the case. Prosecutor Aaron Peterson with the Office of Special Prosecutions — which handles environmental cases — said there are exceptions for people accepting payment related to gas, food and bait.

During the trial, he asked Park Ranger Tom Anthony how much a tank of gas for a boat during a six-hour day of fishing cost. Anthony answered that it would cost about $25.

“It’s probably relatively self-explanatory that $250 per seat is more than you’ll need for fuel,” Peterson said in an interview.

According to the court transcripts from the trial, a witness said Hollandsworth identified himself as a guide to someone who he later took fishing and that he instructed the person on how to fish and piloted the vessel. Another witness said they fished after 6 p.m. and Hollandsworth did not require that a client immediately record a king salmon and stop fishing for the day, which is required on the Kenai River.

During his own testimony, Hollandsworth told the court he moved back to the Kenai Peninsula in 2014 from the Lower 48 and intended to start a backcountry guiding business but was specific with people he took fishing that he was not guiding. He said the people he took fishing were friends who wanted to help cover the cost.

Peterson said it’s not uncommon for the state to prosecute guiding cases indicated to be illegal. The state statutes are fairly clear requiring guides to have a license, and there wasn’t anything particularly more burdensome to try to prove about this case, Peterson said.

“As with any criminal case, we have to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt,” Peterson said in an interview. “Something that was an issue here was whether or not there was compensation for the guiding.”

All the charges the state levied were misdemeanors. Hollandsworth’s sentencing is scheduled for July 30 in Kenai.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander sits inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ostrander to leave City of Kenai in January

Ostrander has served as the city manager since 2017

Melanie Hardin, right, greets the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s Board of Trustees before her interview for the APFC’s executive director’s job Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Juneau, (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Permanent Fund board picks new executive director

Trustees work overtime selecting from three candidates after interviews Monday

A sign welcoming visitors to the Literary Haunted House at the Kenai Community Library can be seen here on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
A sign welcoming visitors to the Literary Haunted House at the Kenai Community Library can be seen here on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion file)
Libraries host haunted houses, scary storytimes, seasonal crafts

It’s all about Halloween at Kenai and Soldotna libraries

Kenai Fire Marshal Jeremy Hamilton is seen by one of Kenai Fire Department’s Tower trucks on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Kenai Fire Department in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Get up, get out and get safe’

Kids taught about fire safety as part of prevention effort

Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media. (Screenshot from Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel)
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Carol Freas (right) helps a voter fill out absentee election materials in Kenai City Hall ahead of the Oct. 4 municipal election on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Absentee voting already underway

Absentee in-person voting has been made available across the borough

Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
What’s on the ballot: Reapportionment, new field house, school bond

Voters will decide on ballot measures that address schools, public safety and legislative bodies

Cars line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Parking lot problems

Lack of space for pickup and drop-offs creates traffic jam at elementary school

Soldotna Elementary School Principal Dr. Austin Stevenson points out elements of the school building on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Aging school on the brink

Renovations are cost prohibitive at Soldotna Elementary

Most Read