Who taught you to fish?
If you are lucky, you had a parent, family member or close friend share their love of the sport. My grandparents were avid anglers. My father, though not so passionate about the sport, made sure I had plenty of opportunities. And my best friends through the years have been anglers.
What if you aren't that lucky? Where do you turn? Here in the Charleston area we are fortunate to have great tackle stores that host regular free saltwater fishing clinics. There are occasional free family fishing days at places like Colonial Lake or the Sewee Visitor Center.
One place you can turn for freshwater instruction is the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (dnr.sc.gov) which offers a Certified Fishing Instructor program to teach interested and experienced anglers how to teach novices.
"The purpose is to help maximize the opportunity for families who have never fished before, or a dad who fished when he was 5 years old but hasn't fished since and needs a refresher course. The family fishing clinics (taught by a DNR Certified Fishing Instructor) are geared toward that," said Lorianne Riggin, who heads the Aquatic Education program for the Department of Natural Resources.
Riggin said there are 140 Certified Fishing Instructors throughout the state, some of them in the Lowcountry.
A person has to pass a SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) certified background check and complete a daylong class in which the components of a Family Fishing Clinic are explained - knot-tying, rigging, casting, how to handle your catch, how to use live bait, etc.
The Certified Fishing Instructors then learn how to set up a clinic or become involved in a clinic and then go through a teacher's kit which includes eye screws to help with knot-tying, monofilament line, floats, split shot and hooks, fingernail clippers to cut line, pliers, a plush fish teachers can use to illustrate how to handle a fish, even rope and a giant shark hook to use in knot-tying demonstrations.
The last part of the training is to go over what the instructors should expect when putting on a clinic, how to interact with children and general teaching tips.
At Family Fishing Clinics, usually held at state or county parks, the instructors pass along information such as tying a palomar and improved clinch knot, how to rig their rods and how to cast. After the class ends, participants get to practice what they've learned and actually go fishing.
"The Family Fishing Clinics are for all ages and geared toward families," Riggin said. "They are the building blocks for fishing, awesome events where you take a kid fishing and the child will have that memory. You hope that later on in life they will have had such a good time they will want to try it again."