Nearly 100 children from Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula came to Harry Gaines Fish Camp on Wednesday to participate in the Kenai River Junior Classic, learning about water safety and fishing for silvers. The event, held annually for 15 years, is hosted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association.
KRSA Executive Director Shannon Martin said the event has become a larger undertaking each year. “It continues to grow, and it also grows in our hearts. There’s nothing more rewarding than taking kids fishing, and for a lot of these children, this is their first time being on the Kenai River and possibly catching a salmon.”
Children predominantly came from Anchorage, with the Armed Services YMCA of Alaska in Anchorage recruiting kids from military families. There was space for 100 kids and 30 chaperones to take part.
Spaces left unfilled are offered to local groups on the Kenai Peninsula, including children associated with the Elks and children enrolled in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Students in Transition program. Martin said that spaces were offered to the Kenai Peninsula boys and girls clubs, who have participated in the past, but they were not able to have kids join this year. Kids had to be between the ages of 8 and 16, accompanied by a chaperone.
A variety of booths and activities were offered as an educational fair for the kids at the fish camp, starting at 10:30 a.m. Martin said they were able to feature representatives from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Trout Unlimited, Stream Watch and the Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Refuge.
Following the fair, the kids enjoyed a barbecue lunch provided by Kenai Catering. After eating, representatives from the Alaska Office of Boating Safety gave a presentation on types of life jackets and what to do in an emergency while in the cold water of Alaska. Martin says these presentations are important and help kids understand that the water is cold and murky. When people jump or fall in the chill can shock them and cause them to breathe in water.
Life jackets were provided for each of the kids to keep, and after all of the children were fitted with the jackets, they prepared to go out for a three-hour fishing trip on the Kenai River.
Martin said that 25 professional fishing guides were present to take the kids out fishing. They made an impressive sight staged around the river waiting their turn to pick up a group of kids. “They enjoy taking kids fishing; they look forward to this event every year,” Martin said. One of the guides said he was expecting to get quite a few pink salmon, but that he was hoping to see a few silvers too.