By DAVID RAINER, Alabama 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.