MDC’s Discover Nature—Fishing classes aim to hook new conservationists in the St. Louis area

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Saint Louis
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ST. LOUIS, Mo.—A lifelong passion for the outdoors and conservation might just begin with that first dip of a bobber. 

That’s one of the reasons the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants to help families and kids learn how to fish through its Discover Nature—Fishing (DNF) program, which begins its 2018 season in April.

One of the biggest obstacles to trying a new activity, however, is lack of knowledge.  DNF aims to help families and youths overcome that obstacle by empowering them with all the knowledge they need.

“If you’ve never fished a day in your life, Discover Nature—Fishing is the perfect starting point to learn, ask questions, and practice,” said Anna Conrades, MDC angler education assistant with the DNF program.

MDC is holding DNF classes this year at both Forest Park in St. Louis and the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area in St. Charles.

Instead of being a one-time, get in/get out experience, DNF consists of four progressive lessons that move newcomers through all the basics of the sport, and gives them the knowledge and confidence to go fishing on their own. 

The main focus of DNF is kids 7-15 years of age, but it also emphasizes family involvement and encourages parents, guardians, and youths, 16 and over, to participate as well.  All children must be accompanied by an adult.  Adults new to fishing have the opportunity to learn the basics right alongside their children.  However, Discover Nature—Fishing is not intended as an adult-only program.

The classes are free and all fishing equipment is provided.  Each class runs two hours.  After a lesson is taught lake-side by trained Discover Nature—Fishing volunteers, participants then spend an hour or more fishing, putting into practice what they’ve learned.

The four classes include:

  • Equipment, Casting, and Proper Fish Handling
  • How to Tie a Knot and Bait a Hook
  • Five Common Missouri Fish - Their Anatomy, Habitat, and Life Cycle
  • Fishing with Lures and Fishing Regulations

Each individual who completes all four classes in the same DNF season will receive a $25 gift card from Bass Pro Shops.

Conrades said the most rewarding thing for DNF volunteers is seeing young anglers catch their very first fish.  She hopes that excitement could plant a seed for greater things to come.

“We see that anglers make great conservationists. Our goal with DNF is to spark an appreciation for nature, with children understanding the importance of conserving the resources around them,” said Conrades.

To find out more about the program and links to register for DNF classes online, visit