With the annual Family Fish Day at the Lake just around the corner, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a special treat in store for Juneau's angling clans - the inaugural Southeast visit of the Mobile Aquatic Education Classroom.
The classroom is a fifth-wheel trailer measuring 62-feet with the tow vehicle. ADF&G purchased it about a year ago to help educate Alaskans about the importance of the state's fisheries.
"It's quite a facility," said Jon Lyman, aquatic education coordinator for ADF&G. "It's got microscopes. It's got fly rods. It's got spinning gear. It's got fish dissection. It is a mobile classroom."
"It's an open classroom and the two sides open out so we have a classroom that can take 30 kids. In that we have a variety of educational devices," he said.
Some of the high-tech educational devices include TV, DVD and video capabilities, a 42-inch plasma monitor, and a computer capable of making PowerPoint presentations.
"It is quite a tool," said Lyman. "We use it all through the spring, summer and fall in the roaded areas down in Southcentral and it is constantly on the road."
ADF&G will host the first educational event in Southeast Alaska with the Mobile Aquatic Education Classroom from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Floyd Dryden Middle School parking lot, with a program titled "Passport to Fishing." The classroom is also scheduled to be set up at Twin Lakes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for Family Day at the Lake.
A multi-agency-sponsored endeavor, Family Day at the Lake is a free event intended to provide local families with an opportunity to catch some fish and spend some quality time with loved ones, said Lyman.
"Some places like to have kids' fishing events and only the kids can fish. We've never thought that way," he said. "We think of sport fishing, especially in Alaska, as being a family event. We want families to use it to grow and strengthen themselves. Finding the mentors in their own families for behavior in the out of doors, reinforcing who they are as a unit through sport fishing."
"Basically our idea is to put on an event where families, and especially children, can come down and have a good wholesome day fishing, playing games, winning little prizes," said Carl Ferlauto of Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club. Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club is one of the event sponsors, along with ADF&G, the US Forest Service, Territorial Sportsmen, and the City and Borough of Juneau.
"It's not a fund-raiser, so come on down," said Ferlauto. "It's an inexpensive way to spend the day with the family and the kids, and it's good wholesome fun."
Ferlauto said the event traditionally attracts between 1,500 and 2,500 people, mainly depending on the weather.
"Everything is free," said Lyman. "We have free use of the boats, free use of the tackle, lots of bait. These fish are designed to be taken home and eaten."
A stock of roughly 10,000 pan-sized coho salmon raised at Macaulay Hatchery are returning to Twin Lake just in time for the family event. All adults and youth 16 and older are required to have a sport fishing licenses to participate in Family Day at the Lake fishing activities.
Lyman said the Mobile Aquatic Education Classroom was an expensive undertaking, yet vital to educating citizens about the importance of Alaskas fisheries.
It pays for itself over time, he said. It gives us a focal point, a facility. It makes people more aware of the programs that they can join in with.
Lyman said he hopes the classroom will help play a role in continuing the strength of Alaskas fishing traditions.
I think fishing sport fishing, commercial fishing, subsistence fishing is hugely important to Alaska, he said. It has been a driving force. It has been the constant in our economy. After boom and bust cycles of fur, of military presence, of resource extraction, our salmon industry has constantly been the underlying economy that has kept us afloat.
To ensure the fishing industry remains strong in future generations, Lyman said the mobile classroom will be offering Juneau a variety of educational opportunities, including boating safety, fly tying, casting instruction, equipment education, and environmental and biological lectures.
Sport fishing is a great exercise for people. Its a very calming, regenerative sport, but it is also a part of the economic mix in Alaska, said Lyman.
Eric Morrison can be reached at email@example.com.