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Kids-only fisheries reel in little anglers

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Ninilchik River is quiet Wednesday evening. But, listen closely and you’ll hear it — little anglers seeking fish as big as they are.

Cambria and Jonas Nations, of Nikiski, are casting where the ocean meets the river. It’s Youth-Only Fishery Day on the Ninilchik, and they’re looking for kings. At least, they will when they can settle whose line was caught in whose first.

The Board of Fisheries created the Ninilchik Youth-Only Fishery in 2016. There are several others around the state this summer, including two days at Homer’s Dudiak Lagoon.

Kids 15 and under are always allowed to fish. But Lower Cook Inlet Area Manager Mike Booz said youth-only days give kids the opportunity to cast without competition from more experienced adults.

“Fishing on the streams down here on the lower peninsula can have fairly large crowds at times, which can make it difficult for kids to be able to just get to fish and learn how to fish," he said.

Little anglers aren’t required to fish with a permit, though they must record their harvest. They’re allowed one king salmon each day.

But this evening, Carter Stevens isn’t seeing much of a turnout. He’s visiting from Montana with his dad and sister.

“But I think a fish swam by and hit my lure. ’Cause there was a big thumpy," he said.

His favorite fish to catch is a halibut. On Wednesday, he's looking for kings. They don't seem to be biting.

The Nations aren’t having much luck either. But their parents said it means a lot to them that their kids enjoy fishing like they do. 

Booz said that’s part of the point of the kids’ days.

“I think these youth-only fisheries provide kids an opportunity to have a positive experience with going to fish in these streams," he said. "Particularly with going to fish for big king salmon.”

By 8 p.m., Cambria and Jonas have finally untangled their lines. Holding fishing poles twice their size, they run toward where they’ve just seen a fish jump. Eight-year-old Cambria casts.

She doesn’t catch anything yet. But she’s still got a lot of years to hook her perfect salmon.

The next Youth-Only Fishery is June 17 at the Seward Lagoon.

Anglers of all ages can participate in the hatchery-only king salmon fishery on the Ninilchik, which starts June 16. While the king salmon runs in the inlet haven’t been strong, Booz said the hatchery supplementation programs should help with poor wild runs.

The Department of Fish and Game stocks the Ninilchik with 150,000 smolt annually.


Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.