Kenai River Etiquette; Some helpful points to avoid being “that guy”
by Nick Ohlrich
We've all been there, just about to drop into that perfect drift where you were surely going to hook the fish of a lifetime; then enters "that guy." "That guy" comes in many forms, the low-holer, the motor right-over-the-fish guy, the courtesy slow down and produce a tsunami-sized wake then speed back up guy, and the list goes on and on.
So who is "that guy?" Is this person's main goal to ruin prime opportunities, or does "that guy" just not know the unwritten rule of river etiquette? I feel it's fair to say that most folks don't intentionally put on the "that guy" pants; they simply don't know or realize what they are doing.
I'll admit I've been "that guy." Everybody has a first time or two, and being that we're all human, sometimes we brain fart at the wrong time and inadvertently get in the way, or we just get a little too excited. So how do we cope with "that guy" and how do we not be "that guy?"
Let's go over a few frowned-upon classic moves from the unwritten rulebook.
The low-holer: The person that drops in below you, stealing your drift. There is no written rule stating the exact length that it is acceptable to go below someone and fish. When thinking about how far is far enough, apply the golden rule: go far enough below someone where you feel that you would not get upset if the move was reciprocated. If you get too close to someone and there is a confrontation, apologize and move out of the way. A quick apology goes a long way; everyone is out trying to have fun and enjoy a great resource.
The motor right-over-the-fish guy: This move is very dynamic, especially when anglers are targeting different species of fish in the same location. Silvers and trout on the Kenai are a great example of this. Fall on the Kenai is one of my favorite things, and I'm not the only one that shares this opinion.
Trout anglers and silver fisherman feel the same way; the other user group is running through "their water" in order to not disturb the target water. Try to split the difference or motor at slow speeds (small wake) when applicable.
When fishing among anglers targeting the same species, be observant as to how the main user-group of boats are moving to cycle another lap. Typically when several boats are targeting an area, a certain route is taken from the bottom of the drift to the top of the run, which doesn't conflict with anglers that are fishing.
The courtesy slow down and produce a tsunami-sized wake then speed back up guy: Fortunately this move allows for a little heads-up. The time it takes for "that guy" to power down and produce the gigantic wake gives you just enough time to have everyone in your boat grab on for dear life.
This guy means well. I mean, the classic big smile and friendly wave signifies good intentions, right? Or is there an underlying motive? Maybe the smile and wave is a façade for the attempt to capsize your boat? Either way this move could knock someone out of the boat or worse, disrupt a near-perfect drift.
Most would agree that having another boat zip past you on step is safer, produces a smaller wake and is less disruptive. By law boaters are responsible for their wake. In a perfect world or when conditions allow, slowly motoring past a fellow angler while only producing a small wake is truly taking a stab at making the world a better place.
Keep'n it Real
As mentioned above, most folks are all out looking for the same thing, having fun and enjoying a great resource. If we all become a little more aware of our surroundings while on the water, and think about other anglers' experiences, the end result will be better fishing and less stress.
All rivers have their own set of unwritten rules and protocol; however, there is a fair amount of crossover, and when in doubt, it never hurts to ask. Have fun and be safe!
Nick Ohlrich is co-owner/guide of Alaska Drift Away Fishing and has been an avid connoisseur of chrome on the Kenai for over a decade. For more information or to book a trip check out guidekenairiver.com or give him a call at 1-877-999-8677.