Twenty five years ago it was just an idea of Alaska’s senior U.S. Senator Ted Stevens to share with others across the nation the uniqueness of the Kenai River and ideas to preserve its resources for the future of all Americans. The idea was to take America’s leaders fishing on the Kenai and raise funds for conservation. From that idea the Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc. (KRSA) was formed to manage the event and to be a vehicle for conservation projects. The Kenai River Classic was born and next year will celebrate its 25th Anniversary. This year more than 200 people and dozens of volunteers showed their support for the Kenai River by participating in the annual Classic. The main purpose of the event remains to educate policymakers, corporate officials and fishing enthusiasts on how important it is to take care of the Kenai River and its fisheries resources.
“This year’s event was a huge success,” said Kristin Mellinger, this year’s Classic chairperson, “We had a lot of returning and new participants. The weather was good and fishing was fair with some big fish being caught. The winner weighed in at 14.3 pounds and was caught by the speaker of the house himself Rep. Mike Chenault. He fishes the Classic every year and many year’s he has been skunked so he was a happy guy today,” said Mellinger.
Highlights of this year’s event included the educational and informative “Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing” with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan. Representatives from leading national sportfishing interests including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Center for Coastal Conservation, the American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association joined KRSA to share some of the issues facing recreational fisheries. Transcript and full roundtable video is available at www.krsa.com. There was also a Legislative update from officials with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and Alaska State Parks on the following day.
Throughout its history the Kenai River Classic brought an important boost to the local economy. The three-day fundraising event, held August 17-19, contributed more than $250,000 to the Kenai/Soldotna economy through participant lodging, food, guides, tours and transportation. Funds raised through participant, sponsor fees and auction proceeds are used for habitat restoration, angler access and education, fisheries management and research, and conservation efforts on the Kenai River and other Southcentral Alaska watersheds.
Presenting sponsor of this year’s Classic was Yamaha Marine. Yamaha sponsored the Welcome Dinner, Tesoro sponsored the breakfasts, ExxonMobil sponsored fishing activities, Alaska Airlines sponsored the auction and ConocoPhillips sponsored the Classic Banquet.
Taking 2nd Place in this year’s silver classic was Rep. Gerran Tarr with a 13.8-pound silver and Rep. Andy Josephson took third place with a 13.1-pound silver. Kenai River Guide Chuck Thomas won the Yamaha “Celebrate the Guides” Luck of the Draw Guide Appreciation boat engine. According to Mellinger plans are already underway for the “Silver” anniversary of Kenai River Classic.