If your desire to take your family fishing is strong, but your experience is weak, don’t be discouraged. You can have plenty of fun by sticking to the basics.

One stroll through any outdoors store will show you fishing has become an activity with many complexities. But don’t be intimidated by the sport’s details. If you have a basic knowledge of the equipment and understand a few simple techniques, fishing can be as enjoyable for you and your family as it is for your more experienced friends.

Let’s start with equipment. Unless you want to fly-fish, you’ll probably use either spinning reels or spin-casting reels. (There are also bait-casting reels, but they can be more challenging so it’s probably best for beginners to stick with spinning and spin-casting equipment.) Spinning reels are open-faced; you can see the fishing line on the spool. They have a bail (a wire loop around the reel) that assists with casting and reeling in line. This style has its advantages, but for beginners, it’s hard to beat a spin-casting reel. This reel has a closed-face (you can’t see the spool) and a button on the back that releases the line when you cast. Spin-casting reels are the easiest to operate and the most trouble-free. You can buy the reel separate from the rod, but if you’re just getting started, it’s probably best to buy some type of combo setup where reel and rod are attached to each other.

Once you have the right equipment, the next step is mastering the technique of casting. If the tackle was in good working order, any previous casting difficulties you’ve had probably stemmed from two basic problems: You either released the line too early or too late. That problem is easily solved with the purchase of a casting plug and a little practice in the backyard. Kids can do this, too. Remember, your technique doesn’t need to be fancy, just functional. All you need to do is get your lure out to where the fish are.

Keep it simple when it comes to lures. If you’re too squeamish for live bait and/or you’re worried about young fingers handling an artificial lure with several sharp treble hooks, think plastic. Plastic lures (rubber worms, rubber crawdads, etc.) are easy to handle, easy to put on a hook and are very effective.

Another essential to having a fun fishing outing is to choose a good location. Your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office will have information about publicly accessible bank-fishing sites that are in your area. If you’re looking for public fishing access sites near Springfield, Valley Water Mill Lake, Fellows Lake and Lake Springfield are among the sites in the metro area that offer angling opportunities. Missouri’s four trout parks (Roaring River State Park near Cassville, Bennett Spring State Park near Lebanon, Montauk State Park near Salem and Maramec Spring Park near St. James) are also places where anglers of all skill levels can have fishing fun. When fishing the trout parks or any other public area, be sure you know the regulations of that site. Wherever you go, plan for a relatively brief angling outing if you’re taking young kids. Also, get information either on how to release fish if you don’t plan to keep any or on how to clean fish.

Two upcoming fishing events in southwest Missouri scheduled for June 10 – Kids’ Fishing Day at Kellogg Lake in Carthage and the Family Fishing Fair at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery near Branson — will be great opportunities for young anglers to get some fishing experience under their belts. That same weekend — June 10-11 — is Missouri’s Free Fishing Weekend. On these two days, Missouri fishing permits will not be required statewide at any public fishing area on those days. In addition, daily trout tags will be provided free of charge at the state’s four trout parks. All other fishing regulations (length limits, possession limits, etc.) still apply.

Information about fishing in Missouri can also be found at mdc.mo.gov.

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. Call 417-895-6880 or log onto to www.missouriconservation.org for information about conservation issues.