Fish and Game sponsors annual student ice fishing event
With rods in hand and bait aplenty, several dozen children patiently wait for the familiar bite from the creatures that swim beneath their feet. Scores of ice fishing holes dot the surface of Sport Lake in Soldotna, stocked with salmon and rainbow trout.
The hands-on experience is just one way the Department of Fish and Game is teaching young Alaskans about the life cycle of the state’s most famous fish. Kayla Hansch is a fishery biologist with the department.
“It’s just a really good opportunity for students to come out and learn a fun, new outdoor activity that a lot of Alaskans spend their time doing in the winter," she said. "They get to learn a bit about fishing regulations as well, and how to use ice fishing rods.”
The event saw about 450 student participants over the course of two days. While students learned new fishing techniques, biologists hope this one of a kind field trip will ignite a passion for the wintertime sport.
“I think it’s really important just for students to get a chance to have some live fish identification experience, and just to get out of the classroom, get outside and learn a new skill and hobby,” Hansch said.
Carter Romero is a fourth grader at Soldotna Elementary School, who just reeled in a rainbow trout. He says this is the first fish he’s ever caught on the ice.
“The first snag you get, it’s like ‘did I get a fish? Or did I get a rock, or a piece of wood?’ When you start feeling it bend, when you know you got a fish, that’s when you start getting excited,” Romero said.
Even though the field trip gives students an opportunity to learn a new skill, Romero says ice fishing has reminded him about the virtue of patience. And, when his patience runs thin, to try his luck at another ice hole.
“That’s what makes it so much fun, reeling it in and having the thrill of getting it to the point where you can just yank it out,” Romero said.
For over 20 years, Fish and Game has been hosting ice fishing events for students on the peninsula. The department also sponsors in-class salmon dissection, egg takes and fertilizations.
“Salmon are just so important to our lifestyle here as Alaskans, and so for them to be able to get a chance to learn about salmon throughout the year, I think, is a cool opportunity,” Hansch said.
The “Salmon in the Classroom” program is offered to numerous school districts across the state. Hansch believes programs like these are crucial to appreciating and preserving native fish ecosystems.