Protestors critical of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association prepare to launch onto the Kenai River from Swiftwater Park in Soldotna Wednesday. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion)

Protestors critical of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association prepare to launch onto the Kenai River from Swiftwater Park in Soldotna Wednesday. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion)

Protest of Kenai River Sportfishing Association launched

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Wednesday, August 19, 2015 7:13pm
  • News

A group of boats gathered in protest on the Kenai River at the riverfront home of a sport fishing activist Bob Penney Wednesday.

As dozens of revelers looked on, the boats displayed banners and signs excoriating Penney and a group celebrating the 22nd annual Kenai River Classic fishing event at his home.

Eight boats and a kayak sat quietly on the river for two hours, as music blared from the speakers and at least a hundred well-dressed guests of Penney’s party dined and drank during the party. Every so often, one would break away to take a photo of the protestors — but beyond the waves exchanged between the revelers and the protestors when the boats finally left, the two groups did not interact.

It was the first protest that has been held at a Kenai River Classic event in recent memory. A Soldotna police officer assigned to a Kenai River Classic event at the Soldotna Sports Center said Wednesday that he had been working security at Classic events for more than a decade and had yet to see an organized protest.

The protest was, in part, organized by the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition. The coalition has been primarily represented by private anglers and former fisheries biologists. It bills itself as an organization dedicated to championing the rights of private anglers, while supporting other user groups and advocating for balanced management of fisheries resources.

Dave Athons, a former Fish and Game biologist and current board member for the coalition, said he thinks people mobilized to protest this year after a Soldotna candidate for Alaska’s Board of Fisheries, Robert Ruffner, failed to be confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. The Kenai River Sportfishing Association was one of a handful of organizations that opposed his appointment in the days leading up to his confirmation hearing. Ruffner had broad support, especially on the central Kenai Peninsula where the Kenai and Soldotna city councils and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly publicly supported his nomination.

“I think the catalyst is that all of the sudden, the public sees Ruffner’s failure to be confirmed. They see a highly qualified candidate and they see these (Kenai River Sportfishing Association) letters against him,” Athons said.

Dwight Kramer, board member for KAFC, wrote in an email that the organization was demonstrating against the Kenai Classic and KRSA to make it donors and participants in the classic aware of how their money is being spent.

Kramer wrote that KRSA’s lobbying efforts to keep the Board of Fisheries meetings away from the Kenai and Soldotna areas were also a reason to protest.

“There are many other examples of unethical behavior from KRSA that lead us to believe that they are not good neighbors or the type of organization we desire in our community,” Kramer wrote.

When asked to comment on the protests, Kenai River Sportfishing Association Executive Director Ricky Gease sent this statement:

“Our primary goal at KRSA is conservation of salmon habitat while promoting responsible sportfishing on the Kenai River. The Classic brings awareness that the Kenai River matters. The event provides an educational opportunity to attendees on a wide ranges of issues, including habitat conservation, fisheries management, research and stewardship of this great resource. The Kenai supports the state’s largest sport and personal use fisheries — great angler access and fishing opportunities make it one of the great sportfishing rivers in the world. Yet the Kenai River also is one of the great conservation success stories anywhere in the world in that there has been more investment in habitat conservation to protect riparian fish habitat and restore fish passage, more areas closed to bank fishing, and more habitat friendly angler access infrastructure than any other location in Alaska. Today at the Kenai River Classic Roundtable we had national and state experts discuss current hurdles and opportunities facing the sportfishing industry and offered their views on long-term plans to confront the challenges while supporting the opportunities that exist.”

Protestors said they planned to gather again Thursday at the Soldotna Sports Center where another Classic event will be held beginning at 4:30 p.m.

 

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Dwight Kramer, member of the Kenai Area Fisherman's Coalition, watches revelers at a party during the Kenai River Sportfishing Association's annual Kenai River Classic as he floats down the Kenai River with a banner protesting the event and its founder, Bob Penney, on Wednesday August 19, 2015 in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Dwight Kramer, member of the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition, watches revelers at a party during the Kenai River Sportfishing Association’s annual Kenai River Classic as he floats down the Kenai River with a banner protesting the event and its founder, Bob Penney, on Wednesday August 19, 2015 in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  A protestor pulls his boat away from the Swiftwater Campground before heading to protest in front of a Kenai River Sportfishing Association event at founder Bob Penney's riverfront house on Wednesday August 19, 2015 in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion A protestor pulls his boat away from the Swiftwater Campground before heading to protest in front of a Kenai River Sportfishing Association event at founder Bob Penney’s riverfront house on Wednesday August 19, 2015 in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Dave Athons, a board member for the Kenai Area Fisherman's Coalition, pilots a drift boat in front of Kenai River Sportfishing Association founder Bob Penney's home to protest Penney, the organization and it's annual Kenai River Classic fishing invitational on Wednesday August 19, 2015 in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Dave Athons, a board member for the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition, pilots a drift boat in front of Kenai River Sportfishing Association founder Bob Penney’s home to protest Penney, the organization and it’s annual Kenai River Classic fishing invitational on Wednesday August 19, 2015 in Soldotna, Alaska.

More in News

Gary Porter, owner of Bald Mountain Air Service, stands in front of his Twin Otter airplane Friday, Oct. 22. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
City Council passes aircraft flat tax rate

The Homer City Council held a public hearing for Ordinance 21-62 concerning a flat tax on aircrafts.

Amelie Bignell, of Soldotna, drops a treat in the bucket of Hayden Jones, of Soldotna, on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at a “trunk-or-treat” event at Orca Theatre on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Alaska. Jones was dressed as Vampirina. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
All Halloween all weekend

A sinister performance, pumpkin carving contest, food drive, pet microchip event and multiple trick-or-treats are on the docket.

Bill Elam (center) nominates Brent Hibbert to be president of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Johnson elected assembly president; Hibbert to be vice president

Prior to Tuesday, Johnson, who represents Kasilof, served as the assembly’s vice president.

Homer Senior Citizen Center residents participated in a worldwide Televeda bingo event to set a Guinness world record on Friday, Oct. 22. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Homer senior citizens help break world record

The game was held to fight against social isolation in senior communities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
State hospitalizations still on the rise

Despite a decrease in cases, the state is still seeing hospitalization surge.

The Seward welcome sign is photographed in July 2021. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward vice mayor and council member resigns

The council accept the resignation of Tony Baclaan during its Monday night meeting.

Ben Mohr watches Kenai River Junior Classic participants head out to fish on the Kenai River in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Mohr resigns as director of KRSA

He has been the executive director of KRSA for nearly three years.

Heather and Hunter Phillips walk through the Kenai Community Library Haunted Hunt with their mom Kumi Phillips on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Scary reads

Spooky literary characters come to life at Kenai library haunted house.

Most Read