A conspiracy was developing among the elementary schools student on the ice atop Sport Lake on Thursday: clearly, only the holes further out would produce fish, while the ones closer to shore would stay quiet.
After the first salmon came up on the end of Aurora Borealis School third-grader Owen Huff’s fishing line Thursday, some envious students monitoring holes that had yet to produce a fish began subtly pulling up their lines and migrating outward, eyeing holes without tenants. Others preferred to wait, hoping that their lines would show a tug before too long, as parents, volunteers and teachers wandered the ice, scooping out the crystals forming atop the exposed water and offering encouragement to the chilly students.
Sytaras White, a third-grader at K-Beach Elementary, leaned close over her hole in the ice, nose nearly touching the water.
“I can see some little fish down there,” she said, leaning back up and watching her line carefully. None of the little fish took the bait, though, and she kept waiting.
More than 250 students from various central Kenai Peninsula schools visited Sport Lake to try their hand at ice fishing on Thursday, followed by another wave on Friday with another event planned for Feb. 28 at Johnson Lake. Alaska Department of Fish and Game employees from the Division of Sportfish in Soldotna headed out a day early to drill holes in the ice for kids to drop lines through, though had to perform some emergency searching Thursday morning to find the holes again after a fresh layer of snow fell across the Kenai and Soldotna area Wednesday night.
Jenny Gates, a fisheries biologist with the Division of Sport Fish, made the rounds among the students equipped with small poles, offering advice and help. Gates helps to coordinate the Salmon in the Classroom program in Kenai Peninsula schools, teaching students about salmon biology, helping them to raise baby coho salmon in tanks in participating classrooms in preparation for release into lakes in May.
Fish and Game stocks Sport Lake and Johnson Lake with salmon and rainbow trout specifically for the ice fishing event. When the first round of students prepared to leave the lake, some after successfully landing fish into the snow, they waved goodbye to “the Salmon Professor” — Gates’ nickname in the schools.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.