Several years ago some of the Kenai River Professional Guides started the first Wounded Warriors fishing event on the Kenai River. Working with Joint Base Elmendorf/Richardson (JBER) to bring wounded service men and women coming home a chance to have a guided fishing trip on the Kenai River. With the decline of the king salmon runs Dave Goggia and Mike Fenton decided to move the event up to August when the silver and pink salmon would be plentiful in the river. Mike Fenton is now the president of the new Kenai River Foundation and Dave Goggia heads up the Wounded Heroes event. “The name has changed but the event is the same. It’s the ambiance of the Kenai River that provides the magnificent experience no matter what you’re fishing for,” said Goggia, “There are some healing qualities sitting in a boat on the majestic Kenai fishing with your buddies and these soldiers really appreciate it. One guy from Tennessee last year told one of our sponsors that he had been home bound for five months and wouldn’t leave the house until he got invited on this trip and he said it changed his whole life. Those are the guys who bring tears to your eyes and that’s what the event is all about,” he said.
It was silvers and pinks a plenty for the 77 some participants who were on the river this year with the professional guides who donated their time and resources to the event sponsored by the Kenai River Foundation. “Those humpies provided a real treat for the guys today along with a few silvers and still a few sockeye but overall the fishing was great,” added Goggia. “It doesn’t get any better than this, it’s what keeps some of us older guides going. To give someone the thrill of catching their first fish. One of the troops today said he’d been fishing in Alaska six different times but today was the first day he had caught a fish and he was all smiles. It’s great to give that experience to these guys who put themselves in harm’s way for us,” said Fenton.
The main sponsors of the event this year included the Central Peninsula Hospital, Alaska Elks Association, BP, and Semen’s. Alaska balladeer Hobo Jim provided entertainment at the banquet where 12 lucky soldiers went home with sports rifles compliments of the Kenai River Foundation sponsors. The following day the soldiers were back on the river early in the morning catching silvers until the final barbeque at Centennial Park and trip back to base Saturday afternoon. “We’re already making plans for next year,” said Fenton “Anyone wanting to get involved can learn more at our website kenairiverfoundation.org.