Our Pledge To You


Fish and Fun: Durability of Lake Geneva Fishing Club’s Kids Day


Kara Karlin (right) helps her younger sister Kiki with a trout caught last Sunday during the Lake Geneva Fishing Club's 29th Kids Day.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

LAKE GENEVA, Wis. — Ken Abraham waved me to his seat near Ceylon Lagoon at Big Foot Beach State Park.

‘‘I forgot to tell you: We have people who come here with their kids who say their own first fishing experience was here with you guys,’’ he said.

At 29, the Lake Geneva Fishing Club’s Kids Day has reached the point where parents bring their kids to a fishing day they once took part in.

It might be the longest-running of its sort in the area. Fishin’ Buddies!, which evolved into a broader grouping of fishing and outdoors in Cook County, started a couple of years after the first LGFC Kids Day. The late Duke O’Malley’s derby ended its 20-year run a decade ago in the south suburbs.

The bottom line sounds simple: fun and fish.

Start with the fish.

The kids (15 and younger), with the help of parents, grandparents and LGFC volunteers, caught lots of fish. Everybody I passed around the lagoon last Sunday caught fish. Ceylon Lagoon is east of where South Lake Shore Drive separates the six-acre lake and Geneva Lake.

When I checked on Morgan Joustra, 4, and her dad, Greg, she literally was catching all kinds of fish — rock bass, rainbow trout, perch and bluegills — on the pier.


Greg Joustra helps his daughter Morgan with one of the many fish she caught last Sunday during the Lake Geneva Fishing Club’s 29th Kids Day.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

To her left, Kiki Karlin, 9, hauled in rock bass, trout, bluegills and pumpkinseed on a worm under a small float. She outfished older sister Kara, 12, but Kara had the touch in unhooking and releasing fish. The Karlins came from Palatine with their dad, Jeff. He joined LGFC in the last year.

He is part of a trend. LGFC, like many clubs, went through a rough patch. But in the last few years, it started growing again. I was impressed by the variety of members actively involved — working the prize table, making goodie bags, assisting fishing, grilling — for Kids Day.

Big Foot Beach makes a beautiful setting, especially the view of Geneva Lake. A family of Canada geese swam the lagoon during the family event. A hen mallard and her ducklings hilariously stopped traffic on South Lake Shore Drive when they crossed. Trails weave the lagoon and cross a couple of arched bridges.

The fun started at the beginning.

Minutes before the 9 a.m. start, people began arriving and Abraham said, ‘‘We are open for business.’’

He had a thick roll of double tickets. He gave one to each kid, and another club member gave each a goodie bag, which Veronica Sandora put the finishing touches on.

One ticket was given to Jim Bloede at the prize table, where every kid drew for prizes from rods and reels to tackle. The other ticket was for lunch. By afternoon, 200 hot dogs, 50 brats and sundry accoutrements had been consumed.

The club had plenty of rods and reels for loaners. Not crappy kiddie rods and reels, but Zebco 33s.

For the 30th anniversary, the club anticipates several busloads from Milwaukee and Chicago. They never know exactly how many will show. The event is held on the first Saturday in June to coincide with free days in Wisconsin (free park admission, free fishing days).

Surprisingly, the most intense day came when 300 kids showed up in rainy weather. This year, the official count was 118 kids. My estimate of adults was 150, making it a total family event.

For LGFC, go to lakegenevafishingclub.com.


Ken Abraham and other members of the Lake Geneva Fishing Club greet families coming for the 29th Kids Day.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times