Meet the 2022 S.C. Department of Natural Resources freshwater fisheries interns! Each of these college students has been assigned to different SCDNR fish hatcheries and regional offices across the state. These interns will play a vital role in the management of our state’s fishery resources. The training program is designed to give real-world experiences in the field. They’ll take part in electrofishing, gillnetting, fish propagation, fish stocking, creel surveys, fish passage assessments, habitat improvements, river and stream sampling, fish aging via otoliths, telemetry, hydroacoustics, water quality monitoring, outreach, and boat and trailer maintenance.
When asked what sparked their interest in freshwater fisheries, here’s what they had to say:
Fisheries Region 2 | Francis Marion University
I had never thought about doing anything like this before until I had an aquatic ecology class at FMU, and I was hooked! This summer, I am getting to experience exactly what I was interested in.
Fisheries Region 2 – Rock Hill | University of South Carolina
I saw the SCDNR Freshwater Fisheries Internship as an opportunity to see first-hand how conservation agencies are using scientific research to implement impactful, real-world change.
Statewide Fisheries Research Program | Clemson University
Growing up in Charleston, South Carolina, I have always been surrounded by the salt marsh and the sea. My love and passion for fishing and observing saltwater organisms grows deep within, but when I moved to the mountains around Clemson, South Carolina, I found an even deeper devotion and admiration for the miles and miles of rivers and rhododendron. I knew then my interests for freshwater organisms in streams, lakes, and rivers would soar, and that encouraged me to do my part to research and conserve freshwater fish.
Diadromous Fisheries Program | Cal Poly Humboldt
I became interested in fisheries management because I witnessed firsthand the crash of rockfish stocks around the San Juan Islands (WA) and wanted to work to fight such issues.
Fisheries Region 3 | University of South Carolina
My interest in freshwater fisheries came from when I watched a documentary for my aquaculture class. I realized that there were opportunities in the natural resources field for females to sample and research fish in the same places where I grew up fishing with my family.
Aquatic Education | University of South Carolina
I’ve always felt a deep connection to nature. I grew up in the Midwest, frequently fishing in lakes and rivers with my family, and grew a strong appreciation for fisheries conservation. Once I realized I could make a career out of my passion for the outdoors and fisheries, I began exploring all opportunities to do so. I’m excited to help other experience the outdoors, promote environmental conservation and management, and work in a field that I love.
Harper (Robert) Jackson
Diadromous Fisheries Program | Francis Marion University
I got interested in fisheries because I have a passion for fish and fishing. I grew up fishing with family, so I wanted to turn a hobby into a dream job. Fisheries biology allows me to enjoy what I love to do, and that is working with fish and other people that enjoy the outdoors and being on the water.
Freshwater Mussels Program – Cohen Campbell Fish Hatchery | Ohio Northern University
I grew up spending lots of time in and around creeks and streams and was always curious about the organisms that live in them.
Region 4 – Wildlife and Fisheries Resources | West Virginia University
I’ve been into fish and fishing since I could walk. Having a career where I can be around fish every day is a dream come true.
Cohen Campbell Fish Hatchery | Clemson University
Growing up, my family put a lot of emphasis on getting outside. I carried that deep appreciation for nature into my college career, where I discovered fisheries science. Going boat electrofishing with my Fisheries Management and Conservation class solidified my interest in freshwater fisheries.
Cheraw Hatchery | Tennessee Tech University
Years ago, I went snorkeling in a stream back home with a conservation biologist. I saw a number of darter and other nongame species, and my interest in fisheries grew from there.
Trey (Jacob) Jeffers
Dennis Center | North Carolina State University
Although my main interest is in amphibians and reptiles, however through exploration, I have found freshwater fish species to be fascinating as well. There are so many different species that can be found not just within rivers and lakes, but within creeks and streams as well. I feel that it is crucial that we preserve all native fish species, both big and small, and the ecosystems that they live in.
Fisheries Region 1 | Tri-County Technical College
Walhalla State Fish Hatchery | Texas A&M University
I first became interested in freshwater fisheries when I went to a meeting for the American Fisheries Society chapter that my college had. From there, I met the professor who helped me run the club. He hired me as a student research assistant for the Texas A&M Riverscape Ecology Lab where I was a field technician for the summer.
The interns have already had a variety of experiences in the field aimed at developing skills relevant to freshwater fisheries programs. Hear about some of their unique experiences below:
“I’ve had the opportunity to do a plethora of things so far. One of the main things we do is electrofishing. A good example would be sampling the state lakes. We will do a few timed shock runs around the lake, and at the end of each, we will weigh and measure each sport fish. We do this to monitor how the species are doing and to make sure anglers have plenty opportunity to catch fish! I have also had the chance to take otoliths from fish and mount and cut them to age the fish. It was very fun to learn the whole process, and I am so grateful to have had this experience.” – Bonnie TannerFisheries Region 2 Intern Bonnie Tanner holding a striped bass before taking a fin clip and spines for a genetics and age study.
“Our main duties in the Region 2 Fisheries Management office include monitoring the sportfish populations of public water bodies in thirteen counties. However, during my time in the Rock Hill office, I have also had the opportunity to assist fisheries biologist Preston Chrisman on a bass removal study in two stake lakes, help collect hatchery brood stock of various species on the Pee Dee and Santee systems, conduct a community survey of the Little Pee Dee River, and take part in many other small projects and tasks along the way.” – Graham McLaughlinFisheries Management Intern Graham McLaughlin holding a flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) that was caught during an electrofishing survey on the Catawba River in York County, SC.
“At the hatchery, I have been learning about the aspects of trout culture on rainbow, brown and brook trout. I monitor water quality daily, complete basic husbandry tasks, load stocking trucks for stream stockings in public waters of South Carolina, disease assessment, utilize various means of treatment for diseases and parasites, clean raceways, data entry, and move and inventory fish among raceways.” – Hailey BinkleyWalhalla State Fish Hatchery Intern Hailey Binkley in a raceway system crowding rainbow trout to be transported to a different raceway system by a fish pump and fish counter.
“Santee Accord Diadromous Fish Studies’ purpose is to collect sufficient young of year (YOY) juvenile shad to determine abundance, distribution, size, and out-migration timing. Additionally, collect shad fin clips for future genetic analyses of the relative contribution of naturally produced versus hatchery produced shad juveniles. We sample at three sites in the Wateree River, three in the Congaree River, four in Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, one in the Diversion Canal, and four in the upper Santee River. Through this, I have learned a lot about how sampling is conducted through electrofishing, how to operate the electrofishing boat, and how to correctly identify the diadromous fish we catch.” – Harper (Robert) JacksonDiadromous Fisheries Intern Harper Jackson with an Atlantic sturgeon collected during a population assessment study. This work was done under NMFS permit no. 20528-03.
“Most of my days are spent wading through streams and rivers across the state to backpack elecrofish and net every fish we can. We identify and count each fish and take detailed notes about the habitat and water quality to understand the relationship between habitat quality and fish communities. I have learned several technical and interpersonal skills and get to explore South Carolina in its natural, most beautiful form.” – Isabel TillerStatewide Fisheries Research Program Intern Isabel Tiller backpack electrofishing.
“I have been able to do a little bit of everything in my internship experience! Fish attractors, electrofishing, otolith processing, and shoreline restoration, just to name a few.” – Jason AckermanRegion 4 Intern Jason Ackerman holding a catfish sample from the Santee River.
“To me, it feels like I am always learning. I’ve been able to paddle through the South Fork of the Edisto River while we were acoustic sampling for striped bass because it was too shallow to run the motor. We had to go under, pull the boat over, and tow the boat around fallen trees. On other occasions, we have conducted community sampling.” – Maggie GaitherFisheries Region 3 Intern Maggie Gaither with a notchlip redhorse (Moxostoma collapsum) during community sampling.
“As the Aquatic Education intern, I’ve had the opportunity to assist in public outreach events such as our Family Fishing Clinics that introduce people to and help develop skills that are essential to the sport of fishing, and Fishing Rodeos that provide opportunities for youth to catch fish. I also help out with the Fishing Tackle Loaner Program that allows individuals to borrow fishing equipment for free, and the Trout in the Classroom Program that exposes students to the life cycle of trout.” – Renee HintzAquatic Education Intern Renee Hintz leading a SCDNR Family Fishing Clinic.
“As the intern here at Cheraw, I’ve become familiar with facility operations and maintenance, as well as the culture practices of both large and smallmouth bass, threadfin shad, and redear sunfish. I’ve gotten the opportunity to help with several fish harvests, go on stocking trips, and go out into he field to electrofish for brood.” – Kennedy IrwinDrone shot of Cheraw Fish Hatchery.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.