Wet, cool weather did not dampen Liam Quiner’s enthusiasm Tuesday as he dragged two headless fish around in a plastic bag at Harry Gaines Fish Camp in Soldotna.
The 8-year-old Webelo Boy Scout and budding angler was eager to show off his two coho salmon while his brother Boden Quiner and sister Cecily Quiner looked on.
Boden says his two coho were the first big fish he’d ever landed, though he fishes with his dad on occasion.
“My dad is sort of a jinx at it,” Boden said, as he related the tale of a recent five-day fishing trip his father took. “Whenever he would take a break, his companions would catch a fish.”
The Quiner family joined more than 100 other military youth and scouts during the 7th annual Kenai River Jr. Classic where kids get the chance to learn about boating safety, river and fish ecology and finally learn the tricks of the fishing trade from a professional guide.
Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, said 25 guides and 30 volunteers were on hand to help with the excitable group of kids.
“Some of these kids never get the chance to go fishing, this is the first time they’ve ever gone,” Gease said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
The Alaska Office of Boating Safety taught Jr. Classic participants how to be aware on the water and each child was given a yellow life jacket to use during their three-hour fishing trip.
Several kids who were bused down from Joint Base Elmendorf/Fort Richardson, said the trip was a first for them although not all of them enjoyed the adventure.
“Fishing was cold and boring and I was on the boat for like four hours,” said Albany Pryor. “But it was exciting cause I never went fishing and caught a fish before.”
The 10-year-old said she was surprised at how big and slippery her catch had been.
Pryor, hopped off of the guide boat she was on as siblings Kyle and Sabrina Smith waited for their fish to be put into a bag.
Sabrina said she used the three hours to catch up on some sleep, however when Kyle tried to do the same his line went taught and he had to grab it to reel in his catch of the day.
Still, for every shivering and sleepy kid, there were several others running around showing off their catches.
Boden said his first fish was so heavy he did not think he would be able to reel it in.
After he landed the silver, Boden said he put two of his fingers inside the fish’s gills.
“It was kind of disgusting, it’s the inside and my fingers went through to the teeth,” he said. “I had bloody hands, some of it dripped on my while the guide took a photo and sent it to my mom.”
Susan DeDinisio, youth program manager at JBER said she had been working with the sportfishing association since the program started.
DeDinisio said the program has grown in the past few years and she enjoys watching youth from drastically different background bond over fishing in Alaska.
“It’s a melting pot. I’m really proud of the program, the kids a lot of them don’t know each other and by the time they get on the boat they’re good friend,” DeDinisio said. “Some of these kids never get the chance to fish, this is their first time. It’s a great opportunity.”
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org