Fishing is one of those activities that participants can be involved in for a lifetime.
Whether sitting on a bucket on a farm pond, dock or local city lake with minimal equipment, or taking it to the next level in competition and spending every available dollar on tackle, boats and gear means fishing has a place for just about everyone.
Young anglers look at it differently than older ones, but it may be one of the only sports where no matter the age, the intrinsic value of just being out there has rewards for the old and the young. The “I wish I knew then what I know now” continues to evolve no matter the age, and unless you surrender to the La-Z-Boy, it is always a learning gig.
"Some may know more but no one knows all" — that keeps all of us plugging. Science and Mother Nature evolves, too, and there is little doubt that figuring out the puzzle all the time isn’t in the cards.
There are multiple stages in a fishing person's progression. It begins with secret baits and spots, then you find out there is no such thing as a secret spot or bait, then you get to the end phase where you're put out to pasture where the young folks try to push you to the side. Only the strong prevail through that.
For all the old dudes out there still competing, letting them push you aside is a mistake. Drive, determination, passion and education can keep you in the game. The fish doesn’t know who is on the end of the line and there is so much that wisdom and time on the water can help to overcome youth. Youth and energy is a strong advantage, but wisdom and situational knowledge can help you overcome the achy joints and old bones. Sounds a bit like life.
There is so much more than winning a few bucks or the tug of the line in fishing — there is life after competition, but I am not sure what that will look like. Even without tournaments, there are other things that can be done to keep yourself in the game. Most know those, but won’t give into the urge to compete both against the fish and the great group of anglers we have in the area. It's not in my makeup to surrender, so I don't see that happening soon. But having a full plate in the fishing industry is great, too.
I have never wanted to be the expert in fishing and have taken the approach of wanting to speak with experts instead. No matter how old I get, I don’t see that changing. I get to talk to the old guys, the young guns and industry stalwarts almost on a daily basis and pick from the strengths from each. It’s not about me but rather passing on the knowledge that gives me the most pleasure.
The old guys use their wisdom and seat-of-the-pants experience; the young guys use the technology and youthful exuberance; the industry leaders blend it into a business. What a great formula to keep learning!
For some, fishing is weighed in checks earned and top finishes, for others it’s a combination of winning and camaraderie and yet for others it’s entirely about the experience. Outside of competitive angling the joy is having a good time with a buddy or family member, catching a fish of a lifetime or putting a few fish on the table to eat. Passing on knowledge and things that can make good anglers better is important.
Some may aspire to be a professional angler — that was on my radar screen early on, too. But I found a niche that suited me better being in the media. The crossover in fishing to life and other sports would surprise many. No doubt fishing is a risk/reward business, and although it looks great from the outside, the rubber meets the road when things go south and an adverse year or two sets in.
It can be like catching a baseball in the dark when things are not clicking, but being in the media, the room is always lit. No matter if you enjoy the game of catching little green fish or reporting on those who do fishing as a sport, it’s my hope to always be involved in both aspects.
There is no doubt our kids and their kids need the outdoors more than ever before. It is still amazing to see the face of a youngster catching their first fish. That wide-eyed smile is unforgettable.
IDNR announces new director
Natalie Phelps Finnie has been appointed the new Director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources by Governor J.B. Pritzker pending confirmation by the Illinois Senate. Finnie served a state representative in the 118th District from 2017 to 2019 and has a Master's Degree nursing from Vanderbilt University. She has extensive background in biological sciences and conservation. We hope to work with her on management of our lakes and streams and those who participate in hunting and fishing moving forward.