TU Five Rivers Odyssey: A future for salmon and Bristol Bay students

Photos courtesy Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy.

Teaching young adults about the significance of salmon conservation is one of the best methods to ensure our fishy friends’ existence in the future. Corporations and non-profit organizations in Alaska have teamed up to make sure that this effort goes full send.

The Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy is a free salmon- and river-education program created in 2008 by Trout Unlimited Alaska, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust and the Bureau of Land Management. Together they established an amazing opportunity for local youth to become passionate leaders in their communities, and to gain the knowledge and skills related to salmon and river sustainability in which they can use to pursue rewarding careers fighting for the watersheds around them.

The academy began as a four-day program with nine local village students, but now offers a week-long course with almost double the numbers of participants. During this week, local biology, ecology, and fishing experts teach students about salmon and river ecology, including the life cycles and morphology of fish and the bugs they eat, necessary habitat requirements, riparian zone benefits, habitat restoration, and safe management practices of salmon. Other specialists provide direction to help the students become strong leaders, conservation problem solvers and native wildlife advocates by lining them up with projects they can get involved in. To add to the fun, they get to tie flies and fly fish all week while learning valuable fishing skills related to tying knots, casting methods, hook extraction and finding careers in the salmon industry.

These programs are important because they stress the value of educating our youth and public about conservation matters. These individuals will grow up supporting local non-profits like Trout Unlimited Alaska and investing in local business to fuel the economy. Leading brands in the fly fishing industry, including Simms and Orvis, have also donated gear and clothes for the academy to utilize. In addition, this program teaches them lifelong skills that will help keep families close, as the industry supplies sport fishing jobs and guiding opportunities for families to work together.

Thanks to the efforts of Nelli Williams of Trout Unlimited Alaska and many others, the traditions revolving around the river and harvesting wild salmon can carry on.

As a biology and education student about to begin my student teaching semester, I feel so thankful for the opportunity to learn about an incredible program such as this. I am deeply inspired by the joint efforts of the community working together in support of the youth, and it gives me drive to be a better teacher for my students as well. In the future, I hope to make a difference for these young leaders by sharing part of my story as to how science and fishing changed my life.

In my classroom, I plan to promote conservation and use these experiences to encourage as many students as possible to get involved in something they care about. By learning about conservation issues, practicing sustainable fishing management, and sharing what has been learned with family and friends, the wild salmon populations in Alaska can thrive and give back to all those who worked hard to protect it, and more.

—Kylie Hogan

By Chris Hunt.