Kaitlynn Cafferty, a habitat biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, teaches kids about fish species at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kaitlynn Cafferty, a habitat biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, teaches kids about fish species at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Grins, fins and lessons

Kids get caught up in releasing fish during annual celebration

Kids gawked over live fish during the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, a field trip meant to increase awareness of salmon, healthy environment, and foster a sense of stewardship over the local environment.

Lucas Stumpf, a fishery biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and one of the coordinators of this year’s event, said he was excited by the turnout. More than 1,000 kids from all over the borough came to Kasilof to release fish into Johnson Lake. He gave special recognition to all the volunteers and different agencies that made the 21st celebration possible.

Stumpf said he could tell the elementary school students were learning a lot on Wednesday, not just about salmon, but about other native species and habitats, too.

“The ecosystem is more complicated than just fish or wildlife,” he said. “I’m glad that the kids get a taste of a little bit of everything while they’re here and they can see it’s all somewhat connected.”

Kids perused campsites at the Johnson Lake State Recreation Area, stopping by booths of different educational topics. They ranged from information about invertebrates and the salmon life cycle to a face-painting station, among others.

The crux of the event was to have kids release fish, rainbow trout for regulatory reasons, into Johnson Lake. Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the ADF&G, said Wednesday that the goal was to put around 7,000 fish in the water.

Cheryl Romatz, a third grade teacher at K-Beach Elementary School in Soldotna, said she’s attended many salmon celebrations throughout her tenure, and that it’s always one of the most anticipated field trips of the year.

“This (event) is their favorite one, because they just feel a little ownership of this little fish and releasing it into the water — they just feel like they got to be a part of it,” Romatz said.

Even more than a field trip, she said the salmon celebration is the end of a year’s worth of learning. Romatz said her class starts by raising salmon from eggs, then watching them grow to complete their life cycles. The class also dissects the fish during a unit so they have a better understanding of their anatomy.

“Then at this time of the year, we get to go and release our personal babies that we’ve raised,” Romatz said of the salmon, which the students release in a separate event.

“It’s just a culmination of an entire year of student with the biologists and it just really kind of plants for the children the thought process of why we take care of our environment, why we need to watch out for our rivers (and) why we need to make sure that we are caring for our resources.”

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

Kaitlynn Cafferty, a habitat biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, teaches kids about fish species at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kaitlynn Cafferty, a habitat biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, teaches kids about fish species at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, prepares rainbow trout to be released at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, prepares rainbow trout to be released at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, prepares rainbow trout to be released at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, prepares rainbow trout to be released at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, prepares rainbow trout to be released at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, prepares rainbow trout to be released at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, prepares rainbow trout to be released at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion) Kyle Griffiths, a fish culturist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, prepares rainbow trout to be released at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

From left to right: Archer Shack, Presley Jackson and Kamryn Best wait in line before releasing their rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

From left to right: Archer Shack, Presley Jackson and Kamryn Best wait in line before releasing their rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kamryn Best waits in line before releasing her rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kamryn Best waits in line before releasing her rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Archer Shack waits in line before releasing his rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Archer Shack waits in line before releasing his rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kamryn Best releases her rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Kamryn Best releases her rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Archer Shack releases his rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Archer Shack releases his rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Presley Jackson waits in line before releasing her rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

Presley Jackson waits in line before releasing her rainbow trout at the 21st annual Kenai Peninsula Salmon Celebration in Kasilof on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)

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