Historically, my fishing activities have looked something like this: Sit on dock (or launch canoe), set up fishing pole, bait hook, toss line, put feet up, wait. Catching? Sometimes.
I didn’t grow up slaying salmon with dipnets, or hang around creeks waiting for a pink to strike the spinner, and maybe the sort of excitement I’ve seen in Alaska fishing kids was a missed opportunity for me to translate a love of sportfishing to my own sons. But there’s always time, and summer 2019 has indeed been a good time.
My teenager and I recently spent a day floating the Little Talachulitna River during a stay at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge. This winding, scenic channel is well-known for its salmon, trout, and grayling runs, and attracts fishers by the hundreds each year. Some float the river for days, whipping fly rods back and forth in a mesmerizing ballet or rhythm, timing, and skill. Others, however, need some careful instruction before confident enough to go it alone. This is also how one can fall in love with Alaska, fishing, and the undeniable feeling of intimacy within a space as beautiful as this.
We paddled inflatable canoes across shallow riffles and into deeper pools teeming with fish. When guides Desi and Mark found a good hole, we’d haul the boats up a gravel bar and toss lines into the current. Desi took advantage of my son’s thoughtful, methodical nature to teach him the finer points of fly fishing, and what a pleasure to see the two discussing technique and fish philosophy before AK Kid’s rod bent nearly double with the weight of a beautiful rainbow trout.
I’ve written about fishing with kids before, but now I have a teenager whose skills and patience have both developed into something more than a passing half-hour of interest. And the timing’s great: The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is hosting Kids Only Fishing Days at Fish Creek both Saturday and Sunday (8/3 and 8/4). Any youngster age 15 and under can catch a fish (except kings) in Fish Creek, with two coho allowed and three fish, total. Fish between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. both days, and there will be markers to show just where anglers can toss their line.
Those on the Kenai Peninsula near Homer can take part in a kids-only fishery at Nick Dudiak Lagoon at the Homer Spit on Saturday, August 3.
ADF&G’s We Fish AK program, designed to make sportfishing accessible for all interested kids and adults offers tips and tricks on their website, plus information about the popular road-loaner program, whereby newbies like us, or visitors who didn’t bring their own gear, can borrow everything they need for a fun day or two of fishing Alaska. Psst: It’s also great for ice-fishing in the winter, too.
Have I become a fully-evolved Alaska fisher? Eh, maybe not. But reviewing the smiles in the above photos sure makes me want to make it so for my own team. Maybe it will for yours, too.