Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series on the Summerville Saltwater Anglers Club. The second part will run in the July 4 issue and focus on the club’s conservation efforts and general activities.
The Summerville Saltwater Anglers hooked Megan Lehr when she was 11. Four years later, she leads the club’s efforts to reel in other youth members.
Lehr wasn’t one of those girls who felt fishing was icky. She began joining her dad on fishing excursions at a young age. Once she caught her first trout, she knew it was an activity she wanted to continue.
Her passion grew and eventually led her to the Summerville Saltwater Anglers.
“I was so excited when I caught that trout so of course I kept fishing,” Lehr said. “One day my dad said ‘hey, since you enjoy fishing so much, I got invited to go to a board meeting for this new fishing club so you should go with me.’ It was interesting so we kept going to the meetings. At first I just went to spend time with my dad, but then I started getting into it and sharing ideas. I enjoy being behind the scenes of something that can have an impact on people.”
The founding members for the club were impressed with the ideas the youngster pitched so they created a board position for her. The St. John’s Christian Academy student has served as the club’s Youth Advisor/Coordinator every since.
“From the start we wanted the club to be family oriented and that is why we created a youth position on our board,” club president David Fladd said. “Megan’s job is to make sure the kids’ interests are looked out for because when you get a bunch of adults in a room you can see how they could neglect what the kids want. It has worked out well and helped us keep focus on kids. It’s been neat to see her grow in confidence and start pushing us rather than us pulling her.”
Lehr’s first big idea has turned into one of the club’s signature events. To celebrate the end of the club’s inaugural year, board members were planning to have an oyster roast and year-end party. Lehr suggested an addition.
“At 11-years-old, Megan came up with the idea to have a charity auction for Dorchester Children in Crisis,” Fladd said. “That auction and the things it has provided have all come from Megan’s leadership. She drives us to do this because of her huge heart and love for children.”
Money raised by the auction goes to helping the charity provide Christmas meals and presents to families in need. Club sponsors donate fishing and boating items for the auction, which also typically includes guide trips donated by club members. In the past three years the event has raised nearly $7,000.
“Our club has amazing sponsors,” Fladd said. “We’ve got all the big hitters of Charleston. … They have always come through to provide tables full of auction items. People see what we are doing and they want to jump on board which is why the auction has grown every year.”
With the help of other club members, Lehr has ensured all meetings, tournaments and events the club sponsors remain fun for kids. One of the reasons the club holds its monthly meetings on the second Wednesday of each month at Summerville Country Club is because of the open and idle space there.
“Our meetings provide a social opportunity for kids,” Lehr said. “The smaller kids can run around and play while the older kids can join in on the discussions about the club.”
The Summerville Saltwater Anglers have approximately 35 youth members. “Our youngest member is a newborn baby and our cutoff age to be a youth member is 16,” Lehr said.
Each summer, the club dedicates the entire month of June to those members.
“Our June meeting is strictly for kid stuff,” Lehr said. “We have a beanbag toss station where younger kids throw a fish into a pelican’s mouth. We also have stations where kids can practice distance casting, cast net throwing and fly rod casting. It’s 100 percent kid-based. We don’t even have a seminar.”
Each youth member at the meeting received a free tackle box filled with items donated by Z-Man, Berkeley Outdoors and Haddrell’s Point.
“You can’t really give the really young ones hooks and other fishing gear so we give them tackle boxes that have toys inside,” Lehr said. “The older kids get hooks, top-water lures, various Z-Man baits, and nearly all of it came from sponsors. Basically most of our youth members have a rod and reel so we gave them everything else they would need to go fishing. I thought it was really cool that a lot of the younger kids turned down the toys so they could have the fishing stuff.”
On June 14, the Summerville Saltwater Anglers hosted their annual youth fishing tournament. Prizes for the tournament included three custom-made fishing rods.
The prizes will be awarded during the next meeting on July 9 so Lehr expects a large turnout of youth members for that meeting.
Youth members are also eligible for prizes awarded for any of the club’s regular fishing tournaments held throughout the year.
For more information on the club, visit summervillesaltwateranglers.com.