Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
December 2004

Helping Anglers Access to Alaska’s Abundant Waters

By Tom Donek and Tammy Davis
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Access enhancements, including ADA accessible fishing platforms and improved amenities are some of the products of ADF&G’s Sport Fish Restoration work projects. Photo ADF&G

Fishing from the shore is a rewarding activity for many Alaskans. For others, hopping in a skiff and feeling the wind in their hair and the chop under foot adds to the enjoyment. Others want to see and experience sea life that is only available by boat - or simply get out on the water and get away from it all.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game does more than manage fish and wildlife, it also helps Alaskans and visitors access wildlife and habitat.

The department’s Division of Sport Fish is actively improving access to recreational boating and fishing throughout the state, thanks to a federal aid program established by congress in 1950 and known popularly as the Dingell-Johnson/Wallop Breaux Act (DJ/WB). Alaskans interested in fishing can appreciate improvements in accessibility and amenities offered at boat launches and fishing access sites built under this program.

The Sport Fish Restoration program, one of several programs under the DJ/WB Act, is designed to increase recreational opportunities through the wise investment of anglers’ and boaters’ tax dollars. It works as a partnership between federal, state and local governments, sport fishing equipment manufacturers, anglers and boaters. To keep the program afloat, revenues are collected from the manufacturers of fishing related sporting goods, who then pay an excise tax on these items to the U.S. Treasury. With several changes to the original Dingell-Johnson legislation over the years, now import duties on sport fishing equipment, pleasure boats and yachts, and taxes on fuel used to power recreational motorboats are also rolled into the fund.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers these funds and disburses them to state agencies such as the ADF&G Division of Sport Fish. The Sport Fish Restoration program is an excellent example of a “user pays-user benefits” program. When you gear up for your next sport fishing trip, you are not just heading out with hopes of pulling in a “barn door” halibut, you are also helping to ensure that the ramp where you launch your boat will be safe and there will be adequate facilities when you reel in the big one. The program provides a complete cycle that benefits users.

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Tom Donek, Access Coordinator

Residents and non-residents alike benefit from the numerous boat launch ramps, parking areas, restrooms, trails and other amenities built by ADF&G throughout the state. For example, Southeast will see improvements to the availability and convenience of fish cleaning stations. ADF&G is presently installing 13 new fish cleaning stations at various new and existing harbors in seven communities throughout Southeast. Thorne Bay recently completed an extensive renovation of its existing fish cleaning station.

The Sportman’s Access Site project recently wrapped up in Southcentral Alaska. At the confluence of the Kenai and Russian rivers in the Cooper Landing area, the existing boat launch into the Kenai River was renovated, overflow parking for anglers using the adjacent Russian River Ferry was upgraded and restrooms with potable water were constructed.

A diversity of angling enthusiasts in the Anchorage, Palmer, and Wasilla areas will appreciate that Angler Access funds are being used at the Eklutna Tailrace, a popular fishing site. Access enhancements including whelchair-accessible fishing platforms, upgraded roads and trails, expanded parking and plenty of available restrooms.

Recreational boaters and anglers from Fairbanks, Nenana and the Anderson/Clear area access the Nenana, Tanana and tributary rivers by launching at the City of Nenana boat launch. Developing Nenana’s launch will upgrade the entrance, provide much needed parking and construct new restrooms.

Improved amenities, safety and ultimately, access to Alaska’s vast coastline are some of the products of ADF&G’s Sport Fish Restoration work projects. By establishing a fund and a means to have money continuously flow into it, the DJ/WB Act is a means for boaters and anglers to invest in their recreational pastime every time they head out to take part in it. Look around your community, or your favorite boating and fishing areas, and you may see signs of Sport Fish Restoration projects making improvements nearby.

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