Blue skies and cool weather at the Buskin River welcomed the second annual Fishing Friday, which aims to make fishing more accessible to youth, specifically individuals who do not have many opportunities to fish, said Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge employees during the event on July 26.
A total of 29 participants, who ranged from about 6 to 14 years, joined the event on Friday said Shelly Lawson, the educational coordinator for the wildlife refuge.
The event’s activities were led by high school students who are part of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Youth Conservation Corps: a program that offers high school students career experience and the opportunity to learn about the wildlife refuge’s work.
In addition to the youth leaders was U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Urban Fishing intern Reth Duir, who said he was invited to help with the wildlife refuge’s fishing programs this summer.
“I’m looking forward to getting these kids connected to fishing and just letting them know that there are places (to fish) accessible near town,” Duir told a Kodiak Daily Mirror reporter minutes before the event began. “We will be able to show them how to cast, how to set up lures, how to tie knots and reel (fish) in.”
Duir traveled from Anchorage to help instructors at the wildlife refuge’s Salmon Camp and Fishing Friday. He has a wide array of experience having participated in the Student Conservation Association and the National Outdoor Leadership School.
During the event, youth participants were separated into three groups and rotated activities: one group fished, while the second group played games and the third group created art with watercolors.
Kyla Villaroya the YCC crew lead and one of the founders of Fishing Friday said she never had the opportunity to fish growing up and wanted to help bring the sport to children in the community.
“We decided to do kids fishing because it seemed like there was a need for it. Kodiak is considered rural, but there are still some urban pockets,” she said, referring to the fact that fishing often remains unaffordable or too much of a leisure activity for lower-income and working parents.
Because of the popularity of the wildlife refuge’s Salmon Camp — and it’s full roster— the refuge decided to create Fishing Friday so more community members could participate, said Villaroya
“The demographic of Salmon Camp did not reflect the demographic of our community. There were (very minimal) children of color,” Villaroya explained.
Fishing Friday is a continuation of Pop-up Salmon Camp, a variation of Salmon Camp offered to individuals who receive free lunch from the Kodiak Island Borough School District during summer vacation, Lawson said.
The youth who participated in this year’s Fishing Friday described the program as “fun” and “cool.”
The participants had a variety of fishing experiences and could be seen concentrating on casting, detangling and reeling in their lines.
“(Fishing Friday) is fun because it’s fun to reel in when you’ve got a fish,” said 9-year old Louis Panamarioff, who added that it was his first time fishing in the Buskin River.
For some, the excursion was an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and fish on their own — with supervised help.
“I’ve been fishing with my uncle. (It’s fun) that I get to do it on my own,” said 9-year-old Leah Flerchinger. “It makes me happy because it’s really fun to cast the hook out.”