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

Sens. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage, right, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, and Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, discuss a bill proposing a nearly 17% increase in per-student education funding Wednesday at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini /Juneau Empire)
State Senate bill would bump per-student funding amount by $1,000

If approved, the legislation would bump state education funding by more than $257 million

Recognizable components make up this metal face seen in a sculpture by Jacob Nabholz Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at the Kenai Art Center, in Kenai, Alaska, as part of Metalwork & Play. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Metalwork gets time to shine

Metal is on showcase this month at the Kenai Art Center

This 2019 aerial photo provided by ConocoPhillips shows an exploratory drilling camp at the proposed site of the Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. The Biden administration issued a long-awaited study on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, that recommends allowing three oil drilling sites in the region of far northern Alaska. The move, while not final, has angered environmentalists who see it as a betrayal of President Joe Biden’s pledges to reduce carbon emissions and promote green energy. (ConocoPhillips via AP)
Biden administration recommends major Alaska oil project

The move — while not final — drew immediate anger from environmentalists

Homer Electric Association General Manager Brad Janorschke testifies before the Senate Resources Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. (Screenshot via Gavel Alaska)
Senate group briefed on future of Cook Inlet gas

Demand for Cook Inlet gas could outpace supply as soon as 2027

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Peninsula voices join state debate over school funding

Lawmakers heard pleas from education leaders around Alaska to increase the state’s base student allocation

Tamera Mapes and a client laugh and joke with one another during a free haircut at Project Homeless Connect on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Caring and connecting

Project Homeless Connect offers a variety of services

This September 2011 aerial photo provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, shows the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, effectively vetoed a proposed copper and gold mine in the remote region of southwest Alaska that is coveted by mining interests but that also supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. (Joseph Ebersole/EPA via AP)
EPA blocks Pebble Mine

Pebble called the EPA’s action “unlawful” and political and said litigation was likely

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 cases continue to climb

Statewide hospitalizations decreased slightly

A plow truck clears snow from the Kenai Spur Highway on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna council approves extra $100k for snow removal

At the end of December, the department was already more than $27,000 over their $100,000 budget for snow removal

Most Read