More than 200 people and dozens of volunteers showed their support for the Kenai River this week by participating in the annual Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) Kenai River Classic. The fishing was great, but the purpose of the event – to educate policymakers, corporate officials and fishing enthusiasts on how important it is to take care of the Kenai River and its fisheries resources is the focus.

Highlights of this year’s events included the educational and informative “Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing” on Wednesday with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Joe Balash, Chief of Staff to 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. Speakers emphasized the fact that sportfishing has a long tradition of conservation that is often overlooked by the general public and that the industry must work with other user groups in conservation efforts so all may benefit.

On Thursday, Classic attendees participated in a Legislative update from officials with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and Alaska State Parks.

The 2016 Kenai River Classic also gave an especially 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 and 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. More than 50 dedicated volunteers and local businesses donated time, services and auction items to make the Classic a success.

Over 225 people attended the annual auction and banquet at Soldotna Sports Center Thursday evening. At that time, KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease presented the City of Soldotna with the Eagle Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in Habitat Conservation and Angler Access, for their work in completing a dual purpose access trail for anglers and the general public to connect the popular Centennial Campground and the Soldotna Sports Center.Alaska.  Sen. Bill Stoltze was honored with the lifetime support award. Presenting sponsor of this year’s Classic was Yamaha Marine. Yamaha sponsored the Welcome Dinner, ExxonMobil sponsored fishing activities, Alaska Airlines sponsored the auction and ConocoPhillips sponsored the Classic Banquet.

The First Place Award went to Rep. Mike Chenault of Nikiski for catching a 14.3-pound silver, Second place went to 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.