A salmon leaps above the surface of the Kenai River as it makes its way upstream near Centennial Park on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

A salmon leaps above the surface of the Kenai River as it makes its way upstream near Centennial Park on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai plans second silver salmon derby

Kenai is taking another swing at hosting a silver salmon derby this fall.

The city of Kenai and the Kenai Chamber of Commerce have obtained a permit for their second annual silver salmon derby. The tentative plans spread the derby over two weekends, from Sept. 14–16 and Sept. 21–23. Anglers can buy derby tickets and enter silver salmon caught anywhere on the Kenai River, bringing them to the city to be weighed. The angler with the fish closest to the “mystery weight” each day wins the prize for the day.

The city and chamber ran a six-day derby in September 2017, but the planning didn’t go as smoothly as they hoped. Though they began planning and applying for permits in the spring, concern from the public and the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board members and permitting delays took them down to the wire. Finally, the state granted the permits and the chamber began to sell tickets about two weeks before the derby began.

All told, 146 people participated and brought in 233 fish. Many of those participants were from Kenai, but some hailed from as far away as Washington and Colorado, said Kenai Chamber of Commerce President and COO Johna Beech.

With so much more time than last year, the chamber plans to market the derby to Anchorage residents as a shoulder season activity, which was one of the original intentions of the derby in the first place. The extra time also allows the chamber to coordinate with Kenai River fishing guides to get tickets for their clients, Beech said.

“When we announced it at (a joint chamber) luncheon, a lot of people were like, ‘Yay!’” she said. “That to me is a good gauge on whether people want to have it again … (We have) the intention of ticket sales being done a lot earlier, working with guides — there’s a lot of logistics to work out.”

The permitting process was much easier this year, said Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander. The city made some changes based on suggestions from regulators and the public, and Ostrander said he presented the results from last year’s derby to the Kenai River Special Management Area Advisory Board.

“By all measures (the derby) was very successful,” he said. “….We’re going to try to make some improvements this year as far as the weigh-ins.”

The proceeds from the tickets go to the Kenai Community Foundation, a nonprofit. The funds are designated to be used for protecting riparian habitat and the fishery within the city, including improved wetland access, birdviewing platforms, improvements to Cunningham Park and educational signage, Ostrander said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at eearl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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