I am not sure why we need a special Kids’ Fishing Day in Sitka. This year in the Sitka Salmon Derby kids, not adults, walked off with the big prizes. A 9-year-old won $10,000 for the biggest fish, an 11-year-old came in second and a 15-year-old third. You need to be six to enter the Salmon Derby so I guess kids’ fishing day gives those under 6 the experience they need to break into the majors.
But the real reason to have Kids’ fishing day is it is it’s fun. I love watching dads and moms bait the hook, and for the littlest ones, minimum age is four, do the casting while the kid reels it in. I saw one 2-year-old “helping” a sibling pull in a fish.
My pop loved fishing but was not so keen on catching them and he positively hated cleaning them. I’m allergic to fish and couldn’t eat them so, when he went fishing, he never baited the hook. It was an excuse to sit on a lakeshore or riverbank, line in the water, without the distraction of actually having to land a fish. Once when he was at my father-in-law’s cabin on the St. Croix River Dad called Pop on it. “No bait?”
“Don’t need it.”
That would not play well on Kids’ Fishing Day.
Fishing day is a community project sponsored by Sitka Rotary, the Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The Coast Guard flew in the fish that ADFG stocked in Swan Lake.
It isn’t all fishing. There is a “Creation Station” where kids can make fish prints and a “Bug Booth” where kids get a net, catch insects, and look at them through a magnifying device. Bugs can be bait, but in this derby, they use Salmon Eggs.
Some kids fished from the shore, and some went out into the lake in inflatables or on paddle boards.
When a fish was caught it was admired, measured, weighed, and logged in.
Then one of three things could happen. If it was legal the kid could take it home to eat. If it was already dead and the family didn’t want it, it went into a cooler to go to feed the eagles at the Raptor Center. If it was alive and no one wanted to eat it, it went into a tank to go back into the lake. There was a group of kids more interested in repatriating the fish than in catching them. They had a fine day too. The Forest Service staffer who handled the repatriation said that at least one fish was caught twice. (Apparently some of them have identifying notches on a fin.)
One fish was floating upside down in the top of the tank. A kid was upset that he may have killed his fish, so the Forest Service worker performed a form of CPR on the fish, holding on to it and running it back and forth in the tank to run water, and therefore oxygen, through it’s gills. The fish did revive. One parent, a commercial fisherwoman, said that she knew where the heart was and could do compressions with her thumb if needed.
There were six contest categories, boys and girls in ages 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. The first prize went to the longest fish. The weight would be the tie breaker. There was also a prize for the first fish landed. The six winners in the biggest fish categories each got a fishing rod and reel. Then there were hidden weights. Anyone catching a fish with the hidden weight won a tackle box or some other prize.
Rotary cooked up hotdogs, ran out and had to run out to the grocery store for more. No fishwiches for this crowd.