SOLDOTNA (AP) -- Some of Soldotna Middle School's best students were rewarded Sunday with a day of king salmon fishing on the Kenai.
More than 50 children participated in Get A Student Hooked On Fishing Day, an event launched by school principal Lee Young and sponsored by a long list of organizations, from the state Department of Fish and Game to McDonald's.
The school has 600 students but couldn't offer the limited number of seats to all of them. So Young charged his students three gold cards, which are credits received for attendance, citizenship and good grades. He also allowed teachers to hand-pick a few kids they felt were deserving.
The students live in the heart of Kenai Peninsula sportfishing country but many don't have a clue about the river, Young said.
''A lot of these kids may not have even had the opportunity to experience this wonderful resource. A lot of time, kids will go to school and go home,'' he said.
The students were to get in five hours of fishing. Prizes were to be awarded to anglers who release their fish. Custom Seafood Processors donated free fish processing for kings that are kept. A barbecue was to be held at Harry Gaines fish camp in Soldotna.
Kenai River Professional Guide Association donated the charter boats and captains. And Kenai River Sportfishing Inc., which annually lays out the red carpet for senators and corporate leaders in the Kenai River Classic, is helping out as well.
Young, a licensed sportfishing guide, said he organized a similar program when he taught school in southwest Washington state and brought the concept north when he moved here three years ago.
''If I had a rationale for the day, it's to have the students learn about the environment and conservation,'' Young said. ''And I guess my biggest hope is parents and children will maybe have enough fun that they take it up as family hobby.''
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