Kids on the Kenai – Part 2

This is Part Two of a pair of blogs that dig into the logistics of bringing children on an Alaskan fishing adventure on the Kenai River. At Jason’s Guide Service we love to have kids in the boat, but there are some considerations that will make the trip enjoyable for everyone.

My first tip is to bring lots of snacks and beverage for the kiddos. If or when they get bored, food and drink is always an excellent diversion.

I see a lot of parents being almost militant at times about their kids fishing non-stop or staying completely focused on fishing for the entire trip. I believe this to be a mistake.  When I’m not fishing or in the outdoors I have an attention span of a five-year old so I know all about daydreaming or getting bored easily.  When your kid gets bored or fidgety let them put the rod up for a minute and hang out or daydream. I always love to make sure a kid has access to the family phone to take photos of the trip.

If your kid needs to move around I can bring them to a gravel bar and let them throw rocks and explore.  It’s always better to have them happy and enjoying themselves by doing something on the water that is fun for them. If they enjoy their maiden voyage they’ll keep coming back for more trips and develop a love and passion for the sport. Having a bad experience will ensure them not wanting to come back.

Everyone who floats the Kenai River has different ideas of what a great fishing trip is. When taking kids out on the water it’s important to know their interest level for fishing and if they have a technique or species they want to target.  Never underestimate a child’s ability to learn and when you fuel that desire you can help create a passion for fishing that never goes away.

There is no age too young to get that kid on the water whether you are putting a fly rod in their hands or a spinning rod. It doesn’t matter if you are targeting rainbow trout, char,  sockeye or silver salmon, just make sure they are having fun and getting the opportunity to try what they want on their guided fishing trip.

The biggest thing to remember, no matter what, is that fishing is supposed to be enjoyable. It doesn’t matter if you are chunking rocks in the river, writing your name on a sand bar with drift wood, exploring gravel bars for bear tracks and spawned-out salmon, or running the perfect drift with your fly rod, make sure your guided fishing trip on the Kenai River is about the young ones and you will be doing fishing trips for life.

Kids on the Kenai

There is never a shortage of questions when it comes to booking a guide on an Alaskan adventure. Clothing, gear, available species, what to bring to eat or drink, just to name a few. One question that always surfaces when a parent wants to bring one or two of their children is if their child is welcome on a guided fishing trip on the Kenai River. The answer to that question at Jason’s Guide Service is always going to be, “Absolutely.”  The question you will get back from us is, “Will your child be able to handle the rigors of an Alaskan fishing excursion?” The answer to that one will always revolve around the child’s age and whether they can spend a number of hours restricted to a small space in a fishing boat.

There are some considerations when bringing your child on a guided fishing trip. How long is the trip? What kind of fishing will we be doing? What species will we fish for?  What will the start time be?  These are just some of the factors that need to be considered.

The Kenai River offers many opportunities for different species and techniques and it is very important to pick the right species and technique that best suits your child’s needs.  The species that Jason’s Guide Service fishes for are the sockeye salmon, silver salmon, rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden char, the most targeted species by anglers on this river.

The sockeye fishery is the hardest for your kids to participate in because we wade in the river and fish with eight-weight fly rods doing what we call “The Sockeye Swing.” The youngest I recommend for sockeye fishing is 10 years old if your child is well developed and has good coordination. At 12 years of age they are definitely developed enough if they have the desire to attempt this rigorous style of fishing.

The silver salmon get bigger than the sockeye but are mostly fished from the boat and can be fished by children of any age that can cast and retrieve an open-faced spinning reel or can take a rod out of a rod holder.

The rainbow trout and Dolly Varden char are the best bet for kids younger than 10 because they can spin fish for the trout and char and all the young kiddos need to do is hold on to a rod and reel the fish in.  I always recommend back trolling or plug fishing – as we call it on the Kenai – for the younger kids because it’s an easy way to put up numbers and keep the kids into the fish and happy.

There is a huge misconception that kids can’t fly fish for trout or salmon until they are older. I find the exact opposite to be true.  Kids are amazing when captivated or interested in something, and when a kid wants to learn something new the learning curve is real quick, much quicker than teaching an older person.  Don’t let the hype or stereotype of what a fly angler is supposed to look like dissuade you from taking a fly fishing trip with your kids, because I can almost guarantee you that they will learn the sport quickly and be hooked for life when taught in a low pressure, fun environment like we have at Jason’s Guide Service.

The moral of this story – I mean Blog – is that, yes, you can and should take your kids on a guided fishing trip on the Kenai River when you visit Alaska. There is nothing better than quality family time on the water.

When the Shutter Snaps

There’s nothing more beautiful than a well-composed photo of a big fish held properly with it’s skin glistening as it reflects the sunlight. Sadly those images are rare, because anglers don’t know the simple rules about holding a fish for a photo that will make it the ultimate image and get it back into the water for a successful release.

Sure, the best way to learn how to properly handle a fish for a photo – and then releasing it unharmed – is to catch lots of fish and get experience handling them. But for some that just isn’t going to happen. With that in mind let’s look at a few of my simple suggestions to make the best possible fish picture.

As a Kenai River fishing guide who targets rainbow trout, Dolly Varden char, sockeye salmon, and silver salmon I have 30 years experience guiding fishermen in Alaska and the Kenai River.  Thirty years ago I didn’t have that experience handling fish like I do now, but I had a good mentor my whole life who taught me the ways of properly handling a fish you want to release and the importance of releasing fish so you have fish to catch in the future. That would have been my Dad. I can’t go into detail in one blog on every fish handling technique, but I can give you a few that will help considerably lower the mortality rate of the fish you catch and release and create a good image.

If you take a fish out of the water for a photo or have them in a rubber net out of the water, hold your breath AND when you need breath, so does the fish.

I see anglers on the river, and in the magazines, who pick fish up by their tails and hold them vertically until they put a hand under the fishes belly for support.  This isn’t good  for the fish. You should have a hand under the fishes belly for support before you lift them out of the water or net and then their vertebrae won’t pop.

I also see people get a fish in the net and then leave it hovering above the water for minutes before they take photos. Keep the fish in the water, gills submerged, facing up stream until you are ready of that quick picture.

Fish breath by taking water into their mouth and through their gills, not by having water come from the back of their gills, so when you try and rejuvenate a fish don’t pull the fish back and forth in the water. Face the fish up stream and let the water flow through their mouth.  You can push the fish forward but never backwards, pulling the fish backwards actually suffocates the fish.

Once a fish has had a hard battle the amino acids in their muscles builds and fish need some extra time in the net or in the shallows before they should be let go.  A fish will often try and give you one big thrust of the tail only to go right to the bottom of the river, only to die.  When I let a fish go after a big battle I put them in my big rubber net and make sure that they are able to maintain buoyancy and good swimming motion before I let them go free.

I always recommend a rubber net for any species you release, and that includes all the salmon species. The slime on a fish is its immune system and a rubber net will help keep that layer of slime intact.

These are just a few things you need to know and can do so you can help do your part in conserving a species and keep your home waters full of fish for now and into the future. As far as getting the perfectly composed image. Look at angler/fish pictures done by the pros and see which you like the best. Emulate that style and you will get some great shots.