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Alternative Youth Activities

Leo Patricelli, center, leads Caitlyn Pina and Bailey Kellerhals, students with Alternative Youth Activities, through the engine room Wednesday of his fishing vessel Molly Ann at the Charleston Marina.

CHARLESTON — Students with Alternative Youth Activities took a trip down to the Charleston Marina on Wednesday afternoon to learn how a commercial slime eel fishing boat operates.

The eel fishing vessel the AYA students toured was the Molly Ann, captained by Leandro Patricelli.

Damein Ocacio, right, talks with eel fisherman Nemo Rodriguez as students with Alternative Youth Activities visit the vessel Molly Ann at the …

Patricelli shared his story of hard work and perseverance with the at-risk youth. He and his family emigrated to the U.S. from Sicily when he was eight years old. At the age of 14, Patricelli dropped out of high school and lied about his age to get a job on a fishing boat.

“A friend of mine’s dad used to tell me stories about salmon fishing out of San Francisco, and that interested me. So, I decided to go for it,” Patricelli said. “I stayed in San Francisco for three days. I slept on the beach. I wasn’t leaving until I got a job on this boat called the Thor. I got it, but it was all volunteer work. So I started out working for free.”

When he was 18, Patricelli bought his first fishing boat and has owned a few different boats since.

“Leo is from the school of hard knocks, and that’s why I’ve got my alternative kids out here,” AYA director Scott Cooper said. “'Alternative' does not mean you can’t amount to anything, it means you’re going to have to work harder.”

This is one of a number of trips that AYA takes in order to help students find interest in different vocations.

“We did a logging tour with Work Source, and now we’re doing a fishing tour, so we’re trying to take the kids around to different industries that they can get into. Not everybody has to go to college to make good money,” Cooper said.

Nemo Rodriguez shows students with Alternative Youth Activities the engine room of the fishing vessel Molly Ann at the Charleston Marina on We…

Patricelli has found great success in the slime eel fishing market, because there really is no competition. He ships hauls of eels to a company he contracts with in South Korea.

“I have my own market,” Patricelli said. “It all goes to Korea, they buy all of it. The only competition I have in this market is my partner.”

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at