Salmon in the Classroom gets gutsy

The “Salmon Professor” visited Connections Home School on Thursday, showing a group of students the ins and outs of one of the Kenai’s most ubiquitous fish — the salmon.


Jenny Gates, a fisheries biologist with the Soldotna office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, spends the school year teaching students across the Kenai Peninsula everything there is to know about salmon with a wide array of fish oriented events.

“The Salmon in the Classroom program is designed to really educate students on our valuable resource — salmon, of course,” Gates said.

Before digging into the fish, the afternoon lesson included an overview of the different types of salmon, their predators and the different functions of a salmon’s fins.

“The adipose fin —that one does nothing,” said student Caden McKinley.

Gates, though, clarified for the class that the adipose fin’s natural function may be a mystery, but it serves a big purpose in the world of fisheries.

“It really helps with my job,” Gates said. “We cut the fin off and it heals so that we can tell which fish were raised in the hatchery and which are wild.”

From the outside to the inside, the students didn’t hesitate to get their hands dirty once the fish, which were donated by commercial fish processor Snug Harbor Seafoods, were cut open by Gates.

“It’s like a small fan,” Alana Caden yelped while feeling the fish’s gills. “My hands are so yucky.”

Throughout the rest of the school year, Gates will be working with the Salmon in the Classroom program for an ice fishing event and the annual Salmon Celebration, where students release fish into Johnson Lake.

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