Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  In this July 20, 2013 file photo, several thousand dipnetters converge on the mouth of the Kenai River to catch a share of the late run of sockeye salmon headed into the river  in Kenai. The city of Kenai is preparing to handle the influx of people for the fishery, which opens Friday.

Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion In this July 20, 2013 file photo, several thousand dipnetters converge on the mouth of the Kenai River to catch a share of the late run of sockeye salmon headed into the river in Kenai. The city of Kenai is preparing to handle the influx of people for the fishery, which opens Friday.

Law enforcement prepares for dipnet season

The personal use salmon dipnetting open season begins Friday which means the Kenai beaches will be swarming with fishermen from around the state.

To combat potential safety hazards, the Kenai Police Department and other authorities are taking several precautions.

Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said the department’s main concern during the dipnet season is traffic congestion.

“When dipnet participants are unable to launch their boats due to low tides, we have a standstill on launching the boats for up to four hours,” Sandahl said. “When that occurs on the peak days, especially in the middle of the dipnet fishery, we get a large buildup of vehicles that can overflow onto Bridge Access Road.”

Sandahl said the department places a police officer on the scene to direct traffic during low tides and posts signs prohibiting drivers from making left turns across backed up traffic.

“We know historically our peak weekend would be July 17 and 18,” Sandahl said. “It’s not that date every year, but it’s not this first weekend, it’s the second weekend. We staff officers for overtime specifically to handle … dipnetting.”

Lt. David Ross said the department hires Temporary Enforcement Officers each summer to aid with increased traffic and activity. This year, the department made six summer hires.

“They’re primarily used for the dipnet fishing,” Ross said. “They’re hired before the dipnet (season) so we can get them trained.”

Ross said Temporary Enforcement Officers are not armed, and therefore would need backup from the Kenai Police Department to handle a serious incident.

In the case of a fire on the beaches, Ross said police work closely with the Kenai Fire Department to determine how to respond.

“It depends on what the complaint is and who calls it in,” said Kenai Fire Chief Jeff Tucker in a previous interview with the Peninsula Clarion. “Obviously if it’s a fire, we’ll respond to it.”

While the burn ban has been lifted for the Kenai Peninsula, a burn suspension is still in place.

On the Kenai North Beach, fires are prohibited north of South Forest Drive, Sandahl said. On the South Beach, fires are prohibited north of Old Cannery Road to the section of beach even with the north point of the Kenai Landing Cannery.

Tucker said that under the burn suspension, campfires are permitted, but bonfires are not. He said campfires are considered to be 3 feet by 3 feet, or smaller. When putting out campfires, Tucker said beach-goers need to be thorough, or risk starting a larger fire.

“The campfire needs to be cool to the touch,” Tucker said. “It’s still extremely dry out there.”

Sandahl said citations can be given out for campfires in addition to other violations. He said dipnet participants have been historically good about complying with rules regarding campfires.

“It hasn’t been a problem in the past,” Sandahl said. “Anyone who had a fire… didn’t realize they were in a prohibited area.”

Sandahl said the most common citations given out during dipnet season are those for parking permit violations. Last year, he said the department received 150 calls for service in relation to the dipnet fishery. In total, 132 citations were given out, all for parking-related violations.

Littering can earn a person a $500 fine, Sandahl said. While there were no witnessed accounts of littering last year, he said garbage still ends up on the beaches.

At a July 1 meeting, the Kenai City Council authorized the purchase of portable toilets and Dumpsters for both beaches, at a cost of more than $94,000.

Other incidents include boating violations or accidents, Sandahl said. Last year, he said boating incidents rose in number compared to previous years.

His department dealt with three minor boat collisions, one significant crash and one significant boat overturn, both of which sent occupants into the river.

“Not all of those situations get reported to us,” Sandahl said. “People are extracted out of the water by other dipnet participants.”

Sandahl said he hopes all boat operators maintain safe speeds and remain vigilant of their surroundings throughout the season.

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Vice President Tyson Cox speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to discuss short-term rental tax on Tuesday

The resolution describes a proposed tax of up to 12%

Photo provided by Special Olympics Alaska Central Peninsula
The Special Olympics Alaska Central Peninsula team stands together for a photo during the Summer State Games in Anchorage.
Area athletes claim 45 medals at Special Olympics Alaska Summer Games

The Central Peninsula team fielded 17 local athletes in the competition

tease
Homer, Seldovia to celebrate summer solstice

Events will be held starting June 20

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Slow sockeye fishing at Russian River, good rainbow trout at Kenai Lake

A Northern Kenai Fishing Report published by the State Department of Fish… Continue reading

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront… Continue reading

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Hilcorp only bidder in Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

8 million acres were available for bidding in the sale, spread across Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula region

Council member Phil Daniel speaks during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
City of Kenai approves budget

A draft of the document says that the city expects to bring in around $19.5 million in the next year, and spend $20.2 million

A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kasilof River personal use setnet opening delayed

Low counts for Kenai River early-run king salmon motivate restriction

Most Read