Fish stocking may come to Nikiski park

Jul 16, 2021

This image shows the Nikiski Community Park, with John Hedberg Lake on the right.
Credit Nikiski Community Council

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is asking for public comment on a plan to add a community lake in Nikiski to its fish stocking program.

The department announced that it’s considering adding John Hedberg Lake to the stocking program, which would put about 700 catchable rainbow trout in the lake this year and 1,000 fingerlings annually after that. John Hedberg Lake is located in Nikiski Community Park near the Nikiski Community Recreation Center, about mile 23 of the Kenai Spur Highway.

Assistant area management biologist Jenny Gates said Fish and Game has been working with the community council on a cooperative agreement for access to the lake. All navigable lakes are public in Alaska, but without public access, the department wouldn’t stock it. The 700 fish they’re talking about stocking there are left over from the Kenai Peninsula Sport, Rec and Trade Show, which usually takes place in Soldotna in the spring, but was cancelled this year. Fish and Game usually hosts a rainbow trout fishing pool there.

John Hedberg Lake is small, but deep—about 23 feet at the deepest—with nothing in it right now but sticklebacks, Gates said.

The lake is named for homesteader John Hedberg, who had a 160-acre homestead in Nikiski in the early 20th century. Hedberg was nicknamed “Moosemeat” John, reportedly because he would share his moose catches. His original cabin served as the first Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and is still on the property today, though it’s been replaced by a much larger building.

The Nikiski Community Council has taken an active role in developing the property around the lake, including groomed ski trails in the winter and for walking in the summer, tracks for bicycles and a budding community garden. The park runs along a road also named for the homestead family—Hedberg Road.

Jason Ross, the president of the community council, said the lake doesn’t actually have an official name yet, but the council is working on it. They chose the name because they wanted to honor Hedberg’s family.

"We’re trying to pay a little historical recognition there with the name,” he said. “He was a homesteader out there. He died in 1959, had 13 kids.”

Ross said the council has been hard at work improving the park over the last few years, adding new features. They plan to add a little more development around the lake, such as a pavilion, for visitors to enjoy. The fish stocking in that lake was one of the council’s original goals when they obtained the property and will make for an easily accessible spot for families in both summer and winter, he said.

Gates said there is more information about John Hedberg Lake available on Fish and Game’s Alaska Lakes Database, which has information about freshwater lakes all over Alaska, including both stocked and wild lakes. She encouraged anglers to use that database to find out more about what species of fish are in particular lakes as well as access, facilities, and bathymetry—essentially, the underwater maps of different lakes. That’s available on Fish and Game’s website.

Fish and Game is seeking public comments on the proposed stocking program until Monday, July 26, at 5 p.m. Comments can be submitted by email to Gates or sportfish area management biologist Colton Lipka or by mail to Fish and Game’s offices on K-Beach Road.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabethearl@gmail.com.