Fish Radio
Bristol Bay River Academy

August 27, 2014

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Getting schooled on the river leads to jobs with fishing lodges. More after this –

Bristol Bay River Academy Credit:

Bristol Bay River Academy

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Thirteen new graduates are ready to guide visitors along Bristol Bay’s rivers and streams, and show them how to work a mean fly rod for salmon and trout. The students mastered the place-based curriculum at the Bristol Bay River Academy.

 They learn the basic skills of fly fishing, casting and knots and fly tying, also learn the basics of customer service, and what it is like in the guiding and hospitality business out in the Bay. They take tours of local lodges and we have guest speakers come in and explain what their businesses are like and what it’s like to be a guide. And the third strand of the curriculum is river ecology and we talk about what keeps trout and salmon healthy, biology – they give the whole picture. 

 Nelli Williams is program coordinator for Trout Unlimited, which runs the Academy with community partners from all over the region. Now in its sixth year, ideas for the Academy were spawned, she says, by local elders.

 When you’re out in Bristol Bay you see a lot of fishing guides from the Lower 48 guiding people on our local rivers and they thought wouldn’t it be great if instead local kids were in those boats with the visitors to the region,.

 The free, week-long Academy has graduated 66 students so far. Many have gone on to get other certifications and guiding licenses and work in the industry. An apprenticeship program is also in the works. Williams says the local guides are the most requested by visitors.

 When it’s a rainy day and the fishing isn’t as spectacular as it sometimes is, our graduates can tell stories about what plants along the river you can eat and how their family preserves them, tell great stories about everything seal hunting in Lake Iliamna to hunting and what life is like in the winter, and all of the things that inherently come from growing up in Bristol Bay. It certainly adds to the experience for the visitor.

The River Academy is the only program of its kind in Alaska and Williams hopes the idea will catch on elsewhere. Find links at

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.