Anchorage, Alaska — Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program, together with partner organizations, is sponsoring the third annual Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy later this month near the southwest Alaska community of King Salmon.
This spring, as millions of Bristol Bay salmon begin their epic migration back to their home streams, 13 young Bristol Bay residents will spend a week exploring what it takes to pursue a career as a fly fishing guide on Bristol Bay’s world-class fishing rivers.
The Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy will be held May 29 – June 5 at the Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge on the banks of the Naknek River. Participants between the ages of 15 and 24 will learn how to fly fish and master the art of guiding from long-time Bristol Bay resident and lodge owner Nanci Morris Lyon and Ekwok elder Luki Akelkok. They will find out what it’s like to be a guide or own a lodge and how the knowledge of a local guide can create a unique experience and connection to local conservation issues for visiting anglers. The hands-on experience also includes boating safety, CPR, and sessions on river ecology and conservation.
Recreational fishing in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska is a lucrative industry that pumps an estimated $80 million into Alaska’s economy every year. Anglers from around the world travel to Bristol Bay every summer to take part in world-class opportunities to catch salmon, trophy rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic char and Arctic grayling. Although sport fishing supports hundreds of seasonal jobs, local residents, particularly Alaska Natives, have traditionally played a very small part in the industry. Most of the jobs go to seasonal workers from the Lower 48.
Through the guide academy, Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program, is working to change that. Recognizing that Bristol Bay is a region of high unemployment with staggering costs, Trout Unlimited wants to encourage residents to get involved in the sport fishing and outdoor recreation industry by providing opportunities for local young people to learn important skills. This is third summer that TU-AK has helped sponsor the academy.
“As more local young people are equipped and excited to pursue careers in the sport fishing world, local lodges are taking notice and becoming increasingly interested in hiring their guides locally,” said Nelli Williams of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska program, one of the academy’s organizers. “And that’s what the academy is all about – giving local young people the skills and tools they need to explore a sustainable, salmon-based career on their home rivers. Bottom line – healthy salmon runs mean more local jobs.”
In addition to Trout Unlimited, support for the 2011 academy comes from the Nushagak-Mulchatna/Wood-Tikchik Land Trust, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, The Nature Conservancy, The Alaska Conservation Foundation, the Bureau of Land Management, and the University of Alaska Bristol Bay Campus. Gear manufacturers Redington, Rio & Sage have provided rods, reels, lines and other gear to this year’s Academy..