It is not uncommon, during summer on the Kenai Peninsula, to get stuck in a traffic jam, strike out finding a camping spot and then drive to four different stores looking for one bag of ice to toss into the cooler. Tourists and Alaskans alike flock to the area just south of Anchorage to catch their very own fresh Alaska salmon and, without knowing it, boost the local economy by about 40 percent.
Rick Roeske, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, said that rough 40 percent is about "typical," although it actually fluctuates from year to year and goes with the flow of the salmon runs -- which in recent years have been less than ideal for fishing guides, sport fisherman, setnetters and commercial fishermen.
In Roeske's 34 years on the Kenai Peninsula, he said, he's seen the fishing industry "winding down," which could mean hard times ahead, as it makes up one-fifth of the local economy.
"A bad run definitely impacts us because people are hesitant," said Roeske. "They have to commit the gas, time, food. If they aren't guaranteed a king out of a guide boat or the dipnet experience, then they will be very hesitant. This year was a prime example."