Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
ALASKA: Youth in the Great Outdoors, Play: Introducing Urban Youth to Salmon Fishing
Alaska Region, January 2, 2014
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Youth showing off their catch.
Youth showing off their catch. - Photo Credit: USFWS
The Alaska Region is moving the needle toward conservation by engaging America's youth in play, learn, work, and serve activities.
The Alaska Region is moving the needle toward conservation by engaging America's youth in play, learn, work, and serve activities. - Photo Credit: USFWS

Despite proximity, a surprisingly large portion of Anchorage’s urban residents are unaware and/or do not have the means to access and enjoy outdoor opportunities literally within blocks of their homes and schools. Like the Service, Anchorage Boys and Girls Clubs want to build capacity to get kids outdoors. According to the Muldoon neighborhood club’s Athletics Director, many of the 700+ youth enrolled had never been exposed to fishing, nor do they (or the Clubs) have the equipment or know-how to gain that experience on their own.

To connect these youth to safe fishing opportunities nearby, Service staff from the Fisheries, Subsistence, and Marine Mammals Programs partnered with the Alaska Departments of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and Natural Resources (ADNR). ADNR’s Office of Boating Safety supplied life jackets and instruction on their proper use and coldwater safety.

Quality Chinook and coho salmon fishing equipment—to be housed permanently at the Club (along with the life jacket station)—was purchased by the Service with a generous discount from B&J Sporting Goods. With help from two giant stuffed salmon, ADF&G provided lively instruction on fishing ethics, salmon identification, and fishing regulations. The classroom portion of the day wrapped up with casting practice assisted by Service and ADF&G staff.

With the basics behind us, 12 excited kids loaded into the Boys and Girls Club van and headed to Ship Creek, Alaska’s most urban fishing spot—and one of the most frequented. It was August 1st and the coho salmon were just starting to show up. The fishing was slow, but there was never a dull moment. The new anglers experienced bird’s nests (balls of tangled line), forgot to engage reel bails, and crisscrossed lines. Other anglers gave our group an extra wide berth. The fish likewise avoided us during this first outing, but enthusiasm grew as casting technique improved, fish were sighted from the bridge, and other anglers allowed the kids to view and handle their catches of pink and silver salmon.

The 700+ youth enrolled with the Club now have direct access to the fishing and safety gear housed there. Service, ADF&G, and ADNR staff will interact with a subset of these youth up to two times a year when the salmon are running. Another set of equipment purchased as part of this effort is going to the Woodland Park Boys and Girls Club in the Spenard neighborhood. With Anchorage serving as a gateway to Alaska’s world class fisheries and 16 National Wildlife Refuges covering more than 76 million acres, this project took a small, but important step toward engaging the next generation of conservation stewards in Alaska.

Check out Youth in the Great Outdoors from around the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Alaska
Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, kristen_gilbert@fws.gov
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