For nearly a decade Alaska’s lady executives have turned the mighty Kenai River pink and changed the perception of sport fishing and smoozing on the river being a guy thing. Presented by the Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc. (KRSA) and sponsored by GCI the three day networking and fundraising event helps raise awareness of the watershed and its resources. 65 female business leaders from across Alaska gathered the second week of September landing some huge silver salmon and a lot of fun. In the nine year history of the event the weather has always been nice, but this autumn weekend broke all records for sunshine and warm temperatures. “It was a fantastic day and even if it were rainy and cold it wouldn’t have made a difference. We had so much fun with the ladies in the boat, we were catching fish, networking it was just fantastic. If anyone thinks women are not serious about sport fishing they should think again. These women were serious and very competitive about fishing but all in good fun,” said Heather Handyside director of communications for GCI, who also said she comes down with her family almost every weekend to fish.
Alaskan Olympian and member of the U.S. Olympic Rugby Team in Brazil Alev Kelter also fished in this year’s Women’s Classic, “I caught a 13.4 lb. silver today and it was the biggest silver I’ve caught here all my life. It fought like someone on the rugby field and I love fishing as much as I love rugby, it’s a family sport and it was a huge honor to be on the first women’s Olympic Rugby team and go to Brazil. The people love their country like we love Alaska,” said Kelter.
The event kicked off Thursday, September 8th with a welcome dinner, followed by two days of silver salmon fishing, afternoon activities, an evening banquet / auction and closing barbecue and awards. The Women’s Classic is a unique and popular women’s-only event that has tripled in attendance since it began in 2008. Female executives from a wide range of businesses attend year after year. Janet Sheldon of ExxonMobil hauled in the biggest fish of the weekend at 13.4 pounds. Second place with a 12.8-pound silver went to Kirsten Ball from Old Harbor Native Corporation. Third place went to Wendy Lindskoog of the Alaska Railroad Corporation at 12.3 pounds. Senator Lisa Murkowski won the smallest fish award for her 4-pound silver. This year $205,000 was raised through participant and sponsor fees and auction proceeds which is used for habitat restoration, angler access and education, fisheries management and research, and other conservation efforts on the Kenai River and other Southcentral Alaska watersheds. Additionally, the event contributed more than $200,000 to the Kenai / Soldotna economy through participant lodging, food, guides, tours and transportation. According to a news release over $1 million has been raised since the start of the event. nine years ago. More than 50 dedicated volunteers and local businesses donated time, services and auction items to make the Women’s Classic a success. Those volunteers are already making plans for the 10th Anniversary Kenai River Women’s Classic next September.