Peters Creek father, son start Kenai River dipnet guide service
Glen Trombley knows his boat will get some attention this summer on the Kenai River, so he gave it a name to remember.
“It’ll be a name they won’t forget,” said the Peters Creek hunting guide, who is launching a sockeye salmon dipnetting guide service aboard a custom 28-foot aluminum pontoon boat called “The Dip Ship.”
Trombley said his daughter Alexis, who had recently returned home from college, suggested the cheeky name.
“The first thing that came out of her mouth was ‘The Dip Ship,’” he said.
Trombley hopes to attract Alaskans who don’t have boats and are unwilling or unable to participate in the annual personal use fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River. He thinks his service will appeal to anyone looking for an easier, more convenient way to access the popular fishery, which draws thousands of Alaskans to the lower Kenai River July 10-31.
Each Alaska “head of household” is allowed 25 sockeye per summer, with another 10 for each additional household member. That can add up to a lot of time spent cleaning fish — which Trombley said fishermen don’t have to worry about aboard his boat.
“We do that for you,” he said.
Trombley’s son, Kody, will serve as deckhand, helping pull fish aboard and cleaning them onboard. Glen said he plans to fish six nets out of the boat, which is outfitted with a 115-horsepower Mercury four-stroke outboard engine, 27-inch railings and color-coded clickers mounted to the steering console to count fish as they’re hauled aboard.
A lifelong Alaskan, Trombley has been personal use fishing on the Kenai “pretty much since it started,” in the late 1990s he said. After hatching the idea for a dipnet guiding business with his son, Glen bought the pontoon boat in Nebraska and drove it up the Alcan this past winter. He built the custom deck and had to rebuild the transom, which was set up to mount an inboard rather than outboard motor.
“I had a lot of help,” he said.
The price tag for a trip aboard the Dip Ship will be $275 per person Monday-Thursday or $325 Friday-Sunday. Parties can rent out the entire boat for $1,400 Monday-Thursday or $1,650 Friday-Sunday. Trombley offers a 10 percent military discount and has outfitted the boat to accommodate wheelchairs. He’s already donated several trips to charity, he said, but still has seats available for the upcoming season.
Although the price might sound high for a fishery that technically requires only a resident fishing license and a free permit, Trombley said he provides a number of benefits that might make the charter pencil out for some folks.
“It’s a lot less work for the fishermen,” he said. “They go home with nothing but meat.”
In addition to cleaning clients’ catch, he provides the large, hoop nets and easy access to the fishery. For people who don’t have boats, the only way to fish the Kenai is by wading into the powerful (and cold) river where it empties into Cook Inlet. That’s just not doable for some folks, Trombley said.
“I’m providing a service for people that can’t do it on their own,” he said.
He’ll also provide life jackets and will have extra ones aboard to hand out to other boaters who don’t have them thanks to a partnership with the state’s “Kids Don’t Float” program.
Dipnet guiding isn’t regulated as a guided sport fishery, though Trombley said he did go ahead and get his boat registered as a guide vessel with the state anyway. He said he’s insured and will provide a safe, Coast Guard certified environment. He’ll launch at the Kenai city dock and plans to camp out nearby for the duration of the fishery.
In recent years, several Kenai River guides have begun taking clients out dipnetting, but Trombley thinks his boat may be the first dipnet-only operation on the river. He said he’s received some criticism from people online who disagree with the idea of adding guides to the river, but pointed out his service only caters to Alaskans.
“Everything about this fishery is for residents,” he said.
Dipnetting is notoriously fickle fishing, with massive pulses of salmon coming into the river one tide and next to nothing the next. Run timing is also important, with the third week of July traditionally the peak of the run, which can send upwards of a million sockeye salmon into the 60-mile long glacial river during July and August.
Trombley said he has an online calendar where clients can pick the days that work best for them. In order to maximize the chance of catching fish, he said he’ll be timing the 10-hour daily trips around each day’s tide rather than having a set schedule.
“We’ll be on the water an hour or two before the ebb,” he said. ‘That way we can fish the incoming and outgoing tides completely with a little lag time on both ends.”
Trombley said he’s excited about getting started, and thinks the new venture will be a fun way to spend time with his son and provide a niche service to Alaskans needing a different way to access the personal use fishery.
“I’m eager to get the boat on the water and start fishing it,” he said.
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call (907) 205-0082