SOLDOTNA, Alaska - Have you ever dreamed of catching a king salmon that weighs as much as a whitetail deer? How about catching a halibut that is bigger than Mike Tyson and fights harder?
A new concept in Alaska fishing promises to teach you how to do this and much more.
Kenai Peninsula College has created two programs that take a different approach to fishing in Alaska.
Dubbed “The Kenai Fishing Academy,” the programs combine classroom instruction on fishing and outdoor topics with time on the water with Alaskan fishing guides.
Classroom. What separates the academy from the average Alaskan fishing experience is that catching fish will be combined with classroom subjects like river history and biology.
Adult students will spend four hours in a classroom each day and then be on the water in the afternoons and evenings, except for the last day when the anglers will go on an all-day trip.
Anglers will learn about river hydrology, Alaska wildlife and bear safety, fish characteristics, habitat protection and coldwater survival.
There’s even a session on filleting, smoking, freezing, and canning your catch.
“It seemed natural to do this, considering we’re within a short cast of the Kenai River, and the business of the college is to educate people,” said Gary J. Turner, director of the college.
“We believe if people know more about Alaska’s fish, rivers and lakes, their respect and understanding of the resources will increase, not to mention their fishing prowess,” he said.
Top salmon waters. The Kenai River, renown as one of the top salmon waters in the world, is where the 97 pound, 4 ounce world record king salmon was caught in 1985.
Catches of 60-plus pound kings are fairly common and the river boasts huge runs of red and silver salmon, as well as 30-plus inch rainbow trout.
Fishing peninsula waters. To accomplish the goal of combining a quality learning experience with fabulous fishing, the academy has assembled some of the most qualified instructors and guides in Alaska.
Helping coordinate the program is Dave Atcheson, who teaches fly fishing at the college during spring and fall semesters and is the author of Fishing Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, the only book dedicated to fishing peninsula waters.
Together he and Turner have come up with a curriculum that should appeal to every style of fisherman.
Summer programs. The June 16-20 program will focus primarily on lure and bait fishing, and will culminate in an all day saltwater combination salmon/halibut trip in Cook Inlet.
The July 14-18 program is designed for the fly fishing enthusiast and will include casting clinics, and finish up with an all day drift boat trip on the upper Kenai.
During both sessions, anglers will fish for king and red salmon, as well as Dolly Varden and rainbow trout.
The summer fishing academies include lodging, gourmet food, and of course, plenty of time on the water. There are trips planned to Cook Inlet, the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers, and even a fly-in for lake and stream fishing.
“In the end our goal is very simple,” said Turner. “We want people to have fun, but when they leave we want them to be better anglers.”
For spouses. Anglers’ spouses haven’t been forgotten either. For those who would rather forgo the fishing, the college is offering two 4-day, 2-credit courses on nature photography.
Students will spend time photographing the rugged beauty along the Kenai River, learn basic photo skills, and then head to the classroom to write about the nature they caught on film.
Kenai Peninsula College is a community campus of the University of Alaska.
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