Fishermen this week remembered the contributions to the Alaska fishing community of veteran Homer commercial fisherman Kenneth Jones.
Jones, 72, died sometime Sunday or early Monday in a kayak accident. A memorial service for him is at 6:30 p.m. today at Land’s End Resort.
“He was really, really well known around the state as a good fisherman,” said Ken Castner, who fished one winter with Jones. “He was always one of the top fishermen. He taught a lot of people how to fish.”
As a testament to his reputation in commercial fishing and the loyalty of Homer’s fishing community, six boats and crews on Sunday evening joined the search for Jones when his son reported him missing from a short kayaking trip on Sunday afternoon.
Fishermen Rich Corazza and his daughter Megan Corazza of the Malemute Kid found Jones’ body about 2:30 a.m. Monday near the Anchor Point bluff.
Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said another fisherman found Jones’ single-person kayak about 1 mile from his body. Police do not suspect foul play, Robl said. Next of kin have been notified.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” Robl said on Monday. “We just wish them the best.”
An accomplished kayaker, Jones had gone kayaking about 2 p.m. Sunday
afternoon, just after a 22-foot high tide at 1:02 p.m. Jones parked his car at Ben Walters Park, put in his kayak at the Beluga Slough, and planned to kayak out of the slough to Mariner Park on the Homer Spit, Robl said. Jones gave a trip plan with his family, and his son Morgan reported Jones missing about 4 p.m. Homer Police notified the harbormaster, the U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers. Police did a shoreline search but did not find anything, Robl said. A Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak also did a shoreline search starting about 9:30 p.m. Friends also put out a notice on social media. Fishermen in six commercial fishing boats — the Malemute Kid, the Wolverine, the Assurance, Valkyrie, Silver Streak and Silver Beach — also began searching.
Crew on the Assurance found Jones’ kayak after a tug in the area reported seeing it, and the other boats then began backtracking toward Homer. Megan Corazza said she and her father, Rich Corazza, of the Malemute Kid found Jones’ body about 1 mile from the kayak.
Castner said that fishermen found Jones more than 20 miles from Beluga Slough showed the knowledge of Kachemak Bay tides and currents by local fishermen — knowledge some fishermen learned from Jones. The Corazzas turned over the body to Homer Police, who took Jones to South Peninsula Hospital.
Robl said because Jones had been floating in cold water, it would be difficult to determine the time of death. Jones had no signs of injuries. He wore a personal flotation device, but did not have a cell phone or marine radio. Robl did not know if Jones had flares. Jones also did not wear a dry suit or wet suit. Robl said it was strongly possible that Jones died of hypothermia after he fell out of his kayak. According to the National Weather Service, marine conditions at 2 p.m. were northeast winds at 18 mph, with gusts to 24 mph, 4-foot seas dropping to 2 feet by 4 p.m., and a water temperature of 48 degrees and air temperatures from 37 to 48 degrees.
“Given the temperatures and the wind and the water exposure, he might have had a chance for a few minutes, but that was it,” Robl said.
Police notified the Alaska Medical Examiner of Jones’ death and his body was sent on Monday to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy. As of press time, police did not release results of the autopsy or the cause of his death.
Former Homer resident Brad Chisholm, now living in Glouchester, Mass., met Jones in 1973. He and Castner both noted Jones’ strong work ethic. Jones’ more recent boat was the F/V Agave. He fished with his son Morgan, his daughter Emilie Springer and his son-in-law Matt Springer.
“He was pretty good at fishing and he worked really hard. He got up in the morning and worked, and even when he wasn’t fishing he was doing something,” Chishold said of Jones.
Castner said when he met Jones he lived with Clarence “Poopdeck” Platt, whose home near the Poopdeck Trail is now the offices of Kachemak Heritage Land Trust.
“When you saw him around town he was usually wearing a pair of soiled overalls, on or on his way to his boat,” Castner said. “He was a really hard worker and expected the same from his crew.”
Castner said Jones was part of a generation of fishermen like Ken Moore and Beaver Nelson who built the Homer fishing industry and taught a lot of young fishermen how to fish.
“Ken was an excellent fisherman — a really, really intense fisherman,” Castner said.
Jones is survived by his wife, Sara Jackinsky, and other family. A time and place for funeral services has not yet been set.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.