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Learn new angling skills at Go Fish, Alabama! event

By David Rainer

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

If you want to learn how to fish or increase your skills, be on the lookout for the “Go Fish, Alabama!” trailer that will be traveling Alabama’s roads and highways this summer on the way to numerous fishing destinations.

The “Go Fish, Alabama!” program holds fishing events in areas like Public Fishing Lakes (PFLs), state parks and local lakes in or near metropolitan areas.

Last Saturday’s destination was Bibb County PFL in Walter Owens Park near West Blocton. More than a dozen adults and children signed up for the event on the picturesque 100-acre lake with bass, crappie, bream and catfish. Several attendees found out about the event when the “Go Fish, Alabama!” trailer was set up at the Academy Sports + Outdoors location in Tuscaloosa on Friday.

Kasie McKee of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division welcomed the participants and explained how “Go Fish, Alabama!” provides the knowledge to advance fish and wildlife conservation across Alabama.

“This program will not only teach you how to fish, but also how fishing and conservation go hand in hand,” McKee said. “By purchasing a fishing license, you become an active participant in conservation before ever stepping foot outdoors. Your fishing license and purchases of fishing equipment and boat fuel provide funds for conservation efforts across Alabama. These funds are critical to ongoing education, research, and management of Alabama’s aquatic resources and providing funds for boating access. The Sport Fish Restoration Program is one of the most successful user-pay, user-benefits programs.”

Other than fishing, the program attendees were provided instruction in ethics, safe fishing and regulations by Conservation Enforcement Officer Brandon Holloway, who explained that ethical anglers only keep the fish they need and do not waste fish. He said anglers should properly dispose of trash and excess bait, follow all applicable laws and regulations, practice safe angling and boating, respect the rights of other anglers and support conservation by purchasing a fishing license.

Holloway covered the basics of safe fishing – always tell someone your fishing plans and time of return, keep a close eye on the weather, be careful around sharp hooks and other fishing tackle, and be sure to bring along the essentials like sunglasses, water, sunscreen, cellphone and personal flotation devices (PFD). Attendees were provided a copy of the Alabama Hunting & Fishing Digest for easy access to fish identification, daily length and creel limits.

Next on the agenda was a Basic Tackle and Equipment 101 class taught by the WFF staff, which included Nathan Aycock and James and Blake Bamberg, who explained the differences of spincast, spinning and baitcasting reels. They covered rod lengths, weights and different rod configurations. For beginners, the spincast reel is the easiest to use, but, as new anglers’ skills increase, the spinning and baitcasting reels can be used to target specific species of fish. The WFF team discussed casting methods that included safe casting by always looking behind you before you cast. They went over setting the drag on your reel as well as how to sweep the rod to set the hook. Attendees learned about how to tie a fishing knot, choose hook sizes to match the species and bring other tackle needed for a fun day of fishing.

After the instruction, attendees got to choose their fishing tackle for a 20-minute session of casting instruction and practice. A plastic practice plug was tied on the line, and attendees cast toward plastic fish targets that could be snagged and reeled in. It didn’t take long for the participants to catch on, and they headed for the lake for a couple of hours of fishing.

Beth Chancellor of Jemison, Alabama, brought her two sons to the event and was very pleased with the opportunity to learn new skills.

“We have absolutely loved it,” Chancellor said. “It was very informative and fun. My boys and I don’t have many opportunities to fish. As a single mom, I don’t know everything and can’t teach them, so this has been a great way to introduce them to fishing and gain some knowledge.”

Justin Grider, WFF’s R3 Coordinator, finished the instruction by demonstrating the different ways to prepare fish for cooking, including filleting, skinning, gutting and scaling. He emphasized safety when using a sharp fillet knife and discussed how delicious freshly caught fish can be when cleaned and cooked properly.

Grider explained the goal of the “Go Fish, Alabama!” campaign.

“The idea was to teach folks who didn’t have the opportunity to learn about fishing growing up,” Grider said. “We’ve done some grassroots marketing. We’ve traveled to some of the towns close to events. We’ve set up the trailer to do some ‘meet and greets’ and interacted with people who might benefit from the program. We’ve been marketing on social media and trying to get the news about the opportunity spread by word of mouth.

“Our goal when somebody attends an event is to provide the skills they need to replicate the experience on their own. We want them to learn to fish, learn the basic principles so they can do that on their own after the event.”

Grider said the program is geared toward adults and families and not particularly at youths.

“The thought process was that if we teach the parents to fish, it’s more likely the kids will get involved,” he said. “There are lots of existing youth programs, and youth programs are great. But there is a niche for these adults who haven’t had the opportunity and are interested in learning. We intend to fill that niche with the ‘Go Fish, Alabama!’ Program.”

The next “Go Fish, Alabama!” event is scheduled for Saturday, June 5, at Cosby Lake Park at 6275 Old Springville Road, Pinson, Alabama.

The rest of this year’s schedule follows:

• Saturday, June 12, at Van de Graaff Park, 3231 Robert Cardinal Airport Rd., Northport, Alabama

• Saturday June 19, at Oak Mountain State Park, 200 Terrace Drive, Pelham, Alabama

• Saturday, June 26, at Tricentennial Park, 2121 Lake Drive, Mobile, Alabama

• Friday, July 16, at E.W. Shell Fisheries Center, 2101 North College St., Auburn, Alabama

• Saturday, July 17, at Lee County Public Fishing Lake, 321 Lee Rd. 808, Opelika, Alabama

• Friday, July 23, at Tricentennial Park, 2121 Lake Drive, Mobile, Alabama

• Friday, August 27, at Pike County Public Fishing Lake, 200 Pike County Lake Rd., Troy, Alabama

• Saturday, August 28, at Dale County Public Fishing Lake, 861 Myrtle Drive, Ozark, Alabama

• Saturday, September 18, at Madison County Public Fishing Lake, 2501 County Lake Rd., Gurley, Alabama

Visit https://www.outdooralabama.com/GoFishAlabama to register for an event and to find out the latest details.