Buck Kunz, Community Member with a Passion for Salmon Habit & Resource Conservation
At the Kenai River Festival, Buck expressed his reverence and passion for Salmon and how, through Salmon, he has a deep connection to the Kenai Peninsula and River. He spoke of his appreciation of the work that the KWF does on the Peninsula's rivers, and his admiration of the River Festival. We related to and were inspired by Buck's words, and asked him to contribute his perspective this month, following the River Festival.
The KWF strives to speak for the Salmon, but every resident on the Kenai Peninsula has their own unique connection to the Fish and Rivers. Here is Buck's story.
I remember the first king salmon I caught like it was yesterday. My dad and I went out with one of his guide buddies on an early morning in June. Not more than 30 minutes into back trolling did I find myself hooked into a giant! I fought her for about 30 minutes before we landed the girthy 47-pound hen and had her in the fish box. It was the fight of a lifetime for my little seven-year-old arms. For the next several hours while waiting for the other anglers to catch their own, I sat in the front of the boat with the fish box open, admiring that magnificent fish. I ran my fingers back and forth on its scales in awe of how big and special it really was.
Ever since I could hold a fishing pole, my life has been and continues to be tied to the Kenai River. At a young age, fishing sparked my interest and pulled me into understanding the significance of the Kenai River. The beauty of the landscape and its wildlife lit a fire in my soul that has grown bigger and stronger since my adolescence.
I grew up watching my parents work tirelessly to make a life for themselves and their family here in the central Kenai Peninsula. At first, they relied heavily on hunting and fishing to fill our freezers with plenty of wild, healthy food. That transitioned into our business revolving almost completely around the Kenai River, hunting, and Alaska recreation and tourism. Seeing the connection my family was able to bridge between Alaska resources and recreation, with a business and income, made me realize how rewarding life here in Soldotna could really be.
After leaving the state for college to get an Associate's Degree, I moved home and struggled to figure out what I wanted to do in life. One thing I was certain of, I loved Alaska and its wildness. I decided to seek a Bachelor of Science in Communication with a Film Production emphasis. My passion for the beauty of Alaska and its fish and wildlife, along with my desire to share their stories along with its people, inspired my film career. I started working on my film business, Kenai Creative, where I hoped to start telling the stories of the River and its people.
After getting a few local film projects under my belt, I was contacted by Branden Bornemann and was asked to lunch to brainstorm some ideas about a film project for the Kenai Watershed Forum. I had known about KWF through a couple of friends, but through that lunch meeting I really got to understand and appreciate what KWF was all about and how much we shared a similar vision and passion for our beautiful salmon resource.
Since then, I have developed a very high regard and respect for KWF and the work it does in the community. I have made some incredible friendships with its employees, and they continue to support my local welding business along with many other local businesses. Being a born and raised Alaskan and a business owner has made me extremely proud to meet and develop relationships with the out-of-state Environmental Scientists, interns, and other employees at KWF. Our shared passion for the Kenai River, despite coming from different places and backgrounds, is both humbling and inspiring.
To this day, I frequently think back to that first King salmon I caught as a young boy and remember what a foundational moment that was in my life. Since then, I’ve only had the privilege of catching about ten more Kenai River Kings. Every year the chances of catching another one gets less and less. My ultimate dream is to create a documentary about the Kenai River fishery. If I do, the Kenai Watershed Forum will most certainly be involved.
Cheers to 25 years! I can’t wait to see what the next 25 might entail for KWF and our community!