Chicago Sun-Times - - OUTDOORS - DALE BOWMAN dbow­man@sun­ @Bow­manout­side

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!”

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. ✶


Va­le­ria Vazquez (above) holds a large­mouth bass that, with help from David Czupryn­ski, she caught on an ice rod at Palmisano Park. A.J. Koenigskne­cht (left) hoists the large­mouth bass he caught last week­end on a fam­ily ex­cur­sion.

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