Plentiful pink and silver salmon, great learning opportunities and U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski combined to make the 6th Annual Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc (KRSA) Jr. Classic a great success. What started out as a cloudy Tuesday morning turned into a beautiful afternoon on the Kenai River filled with big smiles, high fives and lifetime memories for the 88 kids from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER) and 32 Girl Scouts from Anchorage, their guides and chaperones. Participants not only got to fish with a professional guide, they also learned about the river’s ecology, fish, boating safety and why it’s important to wear a life jacket. Children fishing represented most branches of the military including the Air Force, Army, Air National Guard and the Coast Guard. “It’s always a beautiful day when you can make a difference in a kids life with an event like this. The Jr. Classic has evolved over the last six years with different participants but always is something that warms your heart,” said Senator Murkowski.
“This is an event that is so important to these kids,” said Susan Bedionisio, director of instructional youth programs at JBER. “For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve ever been fishing or on the Kenai River they come from all over the nations and it’s a much-needed break from worrying about a parent who is deployed.”
The Jr. Classic is part of a nationwide effort -- Take Me Fishing -- that encourages young people to learn about and enjoy fishing. KRSA hopes that by exposing kids to fishing at an early age, they’ll learn to the love the sport as adults. The event also capitalizes on the fact that the most important time to develop educated and responsible anglers is when people are young.
“Getting a kid hooked on fishing is one of the best gifts anyone can give a child, so we look forward to hosting this event every year,” said KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease. More than 30 Alaska and national companies, as well as individuals and premiere sponsor TriWest Healthcare Alliance, sponsored boats so that children, ages eight to 16, could enjoy an afternoon of fishing. The youth spent the morning learning about fish in the Alaska Department of Fish & Game Mobile Aquatic Classroom. They also played games, learned about the importance of wearing a life jacket from representatives of the Alaska Office of Boating Safety and received a loaner life jacket through the SAFE Kids program courtesy of Central Peninsula Hospital.
Program partners for this year’s Kenai River Jr. Classic include TriWEST HealthCare Alliance, Alaska USA Foundation, BP America and Penco.
Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA) is a charitable non-profit, membership-based educational and conservation organization of sport anglers, conservationists and others, whose primary goal is to preserve and improve salmon habitat while promoting responsible sport fishing on the Kenai River. For more information go to www.kenairiversportfishing.com