Happy smiles from JBER kids who had a free day of guided fishing on the Kenai.

Happy smiles from JBER kids who had a free day of guided fishing on the Kenai.

Hooking kids on fishing

August 16 saw nearly 100 youth from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) and Kenai Peninsula Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have the opportunity to go fishing with a professional guide for silver salmon on the Kenai River. They also learned about river and fish ecology, boating safety, how important it is to wear a life jacket and habitat restoration and protection at Harry Gaines Fish Camp on the Kenai River.

The rain stayed away until the kids returned to shore with their catches of the day and then down it came.

“No amount of rain can wash away the smiles on the kid’s faces as they come back. Many caught fish today for the first time in their lives and have seen the fishing paradise that we have here on the Kenai River,” said Ricky Gease, CEO for the Kenai River Sportfishing Association that created the event hosted by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski for the last eleven years.

The week before many of their moms and dads were fishing with the Wounded Heroes event and this week it was their kids’ turn and maybe even more exciting than catching fish themselves.

“Not only the kids of our servicemen and women, but the kids are bringing home dinner tonight,” added Gease.

According to Gease the kids went out for about three hours of fishing with a professional river guide.

“Hats off to the guides with four kids in a boat for three hours and no other adult in the boat. That’s a service in itself.”

The Kenai River Jr. Classic was created to build future sport anglers, one child at a time. This annual event allows military and scouting youth, many who otherwise would not have the opportunity, to experience the magnificent Kenai River. The Alaska Office of Boating Safety taught Junior Classic participants about safe boating and awareness on the water. Central Peninsula Hospital SAFE Kids provided each child with a life jacket and explained the importance of always using a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) while on the water. The Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge had fun game activities for the kids and everyone was treated to a free kid’s lunch of pizza and sandwiches.

“These kids are the next generation of conservationists. I think one of the most important things parents can do is to introduce their kids to fishing, getting them outside on the river. I didn’t see any smart phones or kids with their eyes down playing e-games they were connecting with each other and nature. KRSA hopes it will be the beginning of a life-long love of the sport. I want to tip my hat to Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and the Alaska USA Foundation for being the prime sponsors of the Junior Classic we couldn’t do it without them and all the other boat sponsors that we have from variety of small businesses and individuals,” said Gease.

While Junior Classic host Sen. Lisa Murkowski was unable to attend the event, her husband Vern Martell was on hand to greet the kids and help them unload their fish. The Junior Classic was followed by the regular Kenai River Classic that was started by the late U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.

“We honored him this year with by auctioning portraits of him and Justice O’Connor when she was sworn in by President Regan. Senator Stevens and Justice O’Connor enjoyed a friendship and passion for fishing in Alaska for many years. Fishing whether it was commercial, sport, subsistence or personal use, Senator Stevens was a supporter of all fishing and all things Alaska. A true legend,” said Gease.

The Women’s Classic will be Sept. 7-9 where professional and business women from across the state and nation will come compete and network on the mighty Kenai River.

KRSA is a nonprofit professional association dedicated to ensuring the sustainability of the world’s premier sport fishing river.

Jane Fellman from Safe Kids of the Kenai Peninsula makes sure each participant has a properly fitting life jacket.

Jane Fellman from Safe Kids of the Kenai Peninsula makes sure each participant has a properly fitting life jacket.

Pinch-hitting for his wife Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Vern Martell welcomes successful fisherkids ashore at KRSA Junior Classic.

Pinch-hitting for his wife Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Vern Martell welcomes successful fisherkids ashore at KRSA Junior Classic.

A young angler kisses her first silver salmon for luck.

A young angler kisses her first silver salmon for luck.

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