Soldotna – To gauge the success of this year’s Kenai River Jr. Classic, all you had to do was look at the smiles on kid’s faces. More than 100 military, Girl Scout and Boy Scout youth participated in this year’s silver salmon fishing event, which is organized by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA). For many of the youth who participated, it was the first time that they had ever caught a fish.
Kids not only got to fish with a professional guide, they also learned about the river’s ecology, fish, boating safety and why it’s important to wear a life jacket. The Jr. Classic is part of a nationwide effort — Take Me Fishing — that encourages young people to learn about and enjoy fishing. Honorary Jr. Classic Chair Sen. Lisa Murkowski was on hand to show her support for youth fishing programs and to share the day with the youth.
KRSA hopes that by exposing kids to fishing at an early age, they’ll learn to the love the sport as adults. The event also capitalizes on the fact that the most important time to develop educated and responsible anglers is when people are young.
“We hope that by learning how important it is to wear a life jacket and to protect river resources at a young age, these kids will become the next generation of responsible sport anglers,” said KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease.
Premiere sponsors of this year’s Jr. Classic are Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and Alaska USA Foundation. They were joined by more than 20 Alaska and national companies and individuals who sponsored boats or donated cash or in-kind services to the event so that youth, ages eight to 16, could enjoy an afternoon of fishing. KRSA pays the professional guides who take the children fishing.
Participants spent the morning learning about fish through educational programs from the Alaska Center for Coastal Studies and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, who taught the youth about river ecology and why habitat restoration and protection is so important. They also played games from booths through Sportsman’s Warehouse and Home Depot, learned about the importance of boating safety and wearing a life jacket from representatives of the Alaska Office of Boating Safety and received a loaner life jacket through the SAFE Kids program courtesy of Central Peninsula Hospital.