Fishing spike and youth: Some anecdotal evidence comes from around Chicago outdoors

Three anecdotal stories from around Chicago fishing add evidence that the spike in fishing during the pandemic also includes youth.

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A.J. Koenigsknecht catches the joy of fishing while hoisting the largemouth bass he caught last weekend on a family excursion. Photo provided

A.J. Koenigsknecht catches the joy of fishing while hoisting the largemouth bass he caught last weekend on a family excursion.

Provided

If you’re fishing at Palmisano Park, visitors will often stop by to chat and watch.

David Czuprynski had one of those special moments last week with Valeria Vazquez at the Bridgeport park.

“She came down to the steel dock area with her family,” Czuprynski emailed. “She asked if I was fishing and mentioned a few times that her father takes her fishing frequently. I offered her my ice fishing pole to see if she wanted to try to catch some fish.

“She ended up pulling in a few decent bluegills, and I assume that got the attention of the largemouth bass. All of a sudden, on her third or fourth drop of the worm and chartreuse jig, she landed the bass. I helped her reel it in!”

Valeria Vazquez holds a largemouth bass, with help from David Czuprynski, she caught on an ice rod at Palmisano Park. Photo provided

Valeria Vazquez holds a largemouth bass, with help from David Czuprynski, she caught on an ice rod at Palmisano Park.

Provided

During the pandemic, there has been a spike in fishing interest like nothing in my lifetime. License sales across the country show that impact for adults (those 16 and older who need a license in Illinois and many other states).

It’s a little more challenging, however, to judge how much fishing has increased among the 15-and-younger set. Eventually sociologists and statisticians will figure out some way to model the pandemic impact on fishing and the young. To me, that number may be more important in the long run than the spike in adult fishing.

For now, anecdotal evidence will have to do. As it happened, three good tales of such evidence, from the city to the suburbs, were emailed in the last week.

From Joliet, John Dowling saw it from almost a global perspective.

“I wanted to tell you about all the kids I see fishing with their parents at the pond by my house,” he emailed. “I have a pond 75 feet from my front door [where] 18- to 20-inch bass are common. My biggest to date is 23 inches.

“Since the lockdown, it seems we have more free time. There have been all kinds of people around the shores. Feeding fish to start, watching others fish, then returning with poles the next time.”

I think Dowling nailed one of the reasons for the spike in fishing interest: time. Inherent social-distancing and being outside are probably other leading reasons.

“The shore was literally lined with families fishing [one night last week],” Dowling said. “It was awesome. I always hand off my rod to the smallest kid near me when I hook one [after asking permission from a parent]. Help a 6-year-old reel in a 4-pound bass, and that kid is hooked for life, parents too, by default.”

“Hooked for life” is why this issue matters to me and everyone else who thinks fishing is a great gateway to the outdoors.

“Maybe something good will come from all this chaos after all,” Dowling mused. “Thirteen years ago, when we first built the house, I was the only person in the subdivision fishing that pond. I would buy the yellow Eagle Claw rods and Zebco reels 10 at a time to give out to any kid who wanted one.

“Now . . . I can’t even get my coveted spot, the closest storm runoff drain, on any given night. It’s awesome; I love it! This pond is hidden in the back of the subdivision, way away from the main roads.

“[That night] there were four cars of families, and I don’t know how many people just walked over carrying their gear. Even groups of young girls are fishing, my 11-year-old included. I cannot stop from laughing when I see them sharing a glove to hold the fish while removing hooks. No, they don’t want help! That night I had to walk to the far end of the pond, for the first time in years, to find a spot to fish. And I didn’t mind at all.”

It’s probably significant that all three stories involve waters in the neighborhood.

Last weekend, one of Rudy Radasevich’s partners, John Koenigsknecht, brought his 13-year-old son, A.J., to “actually catch something.”

“So they showed up at my home in Naperville at 5:30 in the morning [having left their Evanston home a little after 4], and we hit a couple of local ponds,” Radasevich emailed. “A.J. nailed this bad boy on a Rebel Craw at about 7. The only one happier than A.J. was his dad! And for a little icing on the cake, A.J. has huge bragging rights over his brothers, who chose to sleep in.”

That’s setting the hook for life.

A.J. Koenigsknecht deserves a full length view of his joy of fishing while hoisting the largemouth bass he caught last weekend on a family excursion. Photo provided

A.J. Koenigsknecht deserves a full length view of his joy of fishing while hoisting the largemouth bass he caught last weekend on a family excursion.

largemouth bass, kids fishing, outdoors

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