Dipnetting in Kenai saw largely average participation, a report from the City of Kenai’s Parks and Recreation Department says.
The annual dipnet report, dated Nov. 7, says Kenai collected around $483,000 in revenue from the fishery. That’s roughly $14,000 less than anticipated, it says, but $15,000 more than last year.
Transactions at the fee shacks were down 1% from last year, the report says, and 2% from the five-year average. Participation continues to shift toward North Beach, down South Spruce Street, and decline at the dock and at the South Beach. The North Beach now accounts for 60% of all transactions.
Participation from different regions also “didn’t vary significantly,” the report says. Only 18% of those dipnetting were from the Kenai Peninsula, while 50% came from Anchorage and 15% came from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Of the 18% from the peninsula, 7% were from Kenai, 6% from Soldotna and 1% each were from Homer and Sterling.
A memo included in the report from Kenai Fire Department Chief Tony Prior says the Kenai Fire Department saw higher than average call volume this season — eight calls in 2023 compared to four in 2022. They responded to six calls for emergency medical services and two for boat rescues.
Kenai Police Department Chief Dave Ross says in another memo that police responded to 86 “dipnet-related calls” in July, which he notes is around 25% fewer than in 2022. Calls included misdials, parking issues, traffic congestion, motor vehicle crashes, vehicle lockouts, lost and found property, disorderly complaints, boat collisions, a boat capsize, camping complaints, lost children, a theft and other “miscellaneous calls for service.”
Ross writes that during the busiest weekend there were no major incidents, and that temporary enforcement officers wrote substantially fewer citations than prior years.
“The 2023 fishery went smoothly from the perspective of the police department,” he writes.
During the fishery, Parks and Recreation Department maintenance staff act as “support staff,” the report says. They perform repairs, collect supplies, direct traffic and clean toilets, beaches and parking lots. Additionally, the department says 15 temporary employees are hired, to operate shacks at the beach access points and docks, as well as to attend to fishing areas.
The department also partners with Alaska Mission and Retreats, who served food during “peak days” and directed traffic, and Kenai Nordic Ski Team, who provide two cleanup days each week.
New this year was a bypass lane constructed on South Spruce Street, allowing traffic not bound for dipnetting to access the road without stopping at the fee shacks. That lane was built using around $25,000 of a State of Alaska legislative grant, of which $356,000 remains. Another $125,000 of the grant is set to be used for construction of permanent restrooms at the Kenai Little League fields on South Spruce Street, and the remaining balance is “appropriated but awaiting further action to allocate.”
In his memo, Police Chief Ross says that the bypass lane “worked extremely well to reduce congestion on Spruce Street.”
The report says a third fee shack may be necessary at North Beach as the number of transactions there “continues to grow.”
This third shack would be located in the lower parking lot, rather than on South Spruce Street, and could accommodate permit renewals or pass upgrades without requiring visitors to go back up the hill. The report says a possible third shack would require capital costs to set up and ongoing costs for staffing.
Usage of the city’s now-seven-year-old Dipnet Kenai mobile phone application was down around 26%, according to the report.
“This could indicate a need for an app update,” the report reads.
“Options” are being looked at for an update targeted to roll out before the opening of the 2025 fishery, the report says.
To view the full report, visit kenai.city/dipnet.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at email@example.com.