Students from around the central Kenai Peninsula school district took field trips on Wednesday for an opportunity to practice ice fishing on the frozen surface of Soldotna’s Sport Lake. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jenny Cope, who organized Wednesday’s ice fishing demonstration as a part of Fish and Game’s Salmon in the Classroom program, said that approximately 560 students attended.
Many parents also came to fish with their students, bringing along their own gear and tackle. For those without gear of their own, Fish and Game staff and volunteers provided poles, hooks, and shrimp for bait, as well as a safety talk and instruction in fishing technique, before allowing students onto the lake.
Students from 19 schools, as well as home-school classes, came out to participate in hour-long fishing sessions throughout the day, using ice holes pre-drilled by event staff. Cope said that Fish and Game releases chinook and rainbow trout into Sport Lake with the annual ice-fishing event in mind. Students had the option of releasing or harvesting the fish that they caught.
“It’s important for students to learn about fishing so that they learn to foster the environment,” Cope said. “Learn to respect the environment, and some of the resources that we have here on the peninsula. These resources should be taken care of, and not taken advantage of. And I hope that this helps.”
The ice-fishing event is the winter activity of Fish and Game’s year-round Salmon in the Schools education program, which also includes an artificial spawning in the fall, the raising of salmon fry in classrooms, and the release of mature fry in the spring. Cope said that local students need to understand the salmon life-cycle.
“Salmon in particular is important to Alaskans, not only economically but culturally,” Cope said. “Many people rely on salmon. So it’s important for these students to understand that, to encompass or embrace that.”