Bringing home the Silvers, boys and girls from 8 to 16 years of age take to the Kenai River during the Jr. Classic with impressive results
With a goal of introducing youths to the joys of fishing while providing an educational experience, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski hosted the second annual Kenai River Jr. Classic last week, in cooperation with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula, The Kenai River Sportfishing Association (KRSA), Young Marines, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Southcentral Alaska. “These kids had the time of their life catching silvers today. This event is living the motto of “Caring for the Kenai.” As these young people participate in what the resource offers they understand the resource and the river itself. Having the opportunity to be out with guides who not only teach them how to be successful as an angler, but how to be successful in protecting the river, so the Jr. Classic with our theme: ‘Take me Fishing’ is really a win for the kids, who are making memories that will last a lifetime, and a win for all Alaskans as these young people learn to appreciate our environment,” Murkowski told the Dispatch.
Some of the participants were children of active military deployed personnel presently serving in Iraq, “It was very special, we just passed a couple of boats with young men who had landed some nice silver salmon and as they showed off their catch, we took a picture and they’ll be able to put that on the internet and show their parents in Iraq what they were doing with the freedoms at home they are fighting to protect,” added Murkowski. On board the Fun Boat with Senator Murkowski, delivering snacks and drinks to all the kids on the river, was Peter Micciche, Boys & Girls Clubs Board President, “This is a great partnership with the KRSA, our Boys & Girls clubs, and the other youth groups participating here today. So many of these kids just don’t get a chance to come out on the river, and living in a place as beautiful as South Central Alaska that’s a shame, but those that we’ve been able to bring out here today are learning stewardship as well as the thrill of catching a fish from the Kenai,” said Micciche.
Over 80 Participants in the Kenai River Jr. Classic warmed up for fishing with sack races and tug of wars and moved on to bring in some big fish.
80 some kids turned out for the event, with Princess Tours donating a luxury tour bus to bring kids down from Anchorage. Leading up to the classic, the youth participated in water safety classes and learned about river conservation and the local environment. Each participant went home with their own floatation vest, t-shirt, and Coho salmon, “Last year was a pink year and we knew most of the kids would land a fish, but this year with silver fishing being a little slow so far we wanted to be sure the kids would all have some nice filets to take home to their families, so Icicle Seafood’s donated fish for all the kids in addition to what they caught. But there was quite a bite this afternoon and I think all the kids caught at least one fish and most boats limited out, so it was a great day,” said Ricky Gease, KRSA executive director.
The day started out under drizzly skies, but it didn’t dampen the fun as kids ran sack races and had tug of war competitions before lunch and heading out on the river. By mid-afternoon the sun had broken through and the big silvers were biting, “I feel just great about catching my fish because I almost lost it but two of the other kids in my boat helped me bring it in and we landed it, because it was a big fish!” exclaimed 9-year-old Hattie Williams from the Big Brothers/Sisters of Anchorage. Hattie’s fish weighed in at 13lbs 12 ounces and was the record catch of the Classic. It was the first time Williams had ever been fishing or even seen the Kenai River, “I think the enthusiasm these kids brought out here today brought the fish in, it’s been slow out here and the afternoon bite was like magic, and we’ve all seen it, kids just have a different enthusiasm when there out here that draws fish,” said river guide Dave Goggia.
Monies raised from the more than 25 boat sponsors went to pay for the event with all other proceeds going to the KRSA educational programs according to Ricky Gease. There were more than 30 community volunteers that turned out to help with the event, and the river guides donated all their fees to the Kenai River Guides Association scholarship fund according to association president Mike Fenton, “We started our scholarship fund last winter in the name of Willie Illingsworth of Willie Boats, and this is one way we’re raising monies to fund special scholarships for the future,” said Fenton.
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