Wisconsin Angler Brings Kids into the Fishing Fold

Wisconsin Angler Brings Kids into the Fishing Fold

Forestville, WI – In Catholicism, the holiest of the holy sometimes achieve sainthood…posthumously, however. In fishing, for angling educator Captain Greg Karch, sainthood has been achieved while sharing the gospel of fishing in living flesh and bone.

“If we could clone his knowledge and passion for angling and desire to pass it along, we would never have to worry about angling recruitment again,” said National Professional Angler Association president (NPAA) and Future Angler Foundation (FAF) founder Pat Neu.

Regrettably, for many, angler recruitment is but lip service. Looks good on paper, but no practicing what they preach. For Karch, fostering the next generation of anglers is a passion and a lifestyle.

Karch’s drive to educate developed while he worked in IT at Thrivent Financial. Upper management took notice of how Karch produced “quickly and cheaply,” so they asked him to teach his methods to other employees. As a result, with no formal training or degree on the wall, Karch became a defacto educator. His passion manifested in charitable work, too, Thrivent Financial honoring him with “Volunteer of the Year” accolades for his selfless hours invested in supporting nonprofits.

Fishing has been a lifelong pursuit as well. Serious fishing. Passionate fishing. Karch competed professionally from 1999 to 2015. Likewise, the fishing maverick operated a guide service on Wisconsin’s Winnebago and Green Bay for five years. And all this while he hosted youth fishing events and managed a fulltime job. Whew…

In 2015, Karch made the decision to sideline professional angling and devote his precious off-work-hours to introducing kids to the lifelong pursuit of fishing. So, along with his wife Karen, the dynamic duo created Learn to Fish with Us, a 501(c)(3).

Since its inception, Learn to Fish with Us has put more youth events on the board than dare we say anyone. In fact, this past weekend they hosted their 365th event. Ruminate on that number for a minute. Quite astonishing. They’ll put on over 40 events this year, even eking out 40 dates during the COVID calamity.

Geographically, the Karch’s focus on their greater backyard, to include Wisconsin, Michigan, and northern Illinois. Learn to Fish with Us collaborates with schools, park and recreation departments, 4-H Clubs, churches, Scout troops, Big Brothers and Sisters, and more.

The Karch’s are masterful organizers, too, bearing out how they’re able to host so many events. Logistically, they first coordinate with the right groups – other doers not posers – and select primo locations with generous shore fishing access and a high probability of catching fish. Next comes manpower. “I have a tight group of friends and anglers to draw from,” said Karch. “Very grateful for my volunteers. Can’t do it without them.”

The events themselves are immersive. “It’s hands-on,” said Karch. “The kids get to handle gear, cast, and tie-knots.” The opposite of a static seminar – it’s experiential. Karch continues: “And we don’t go over their heads,” as Karch considers their tender ages and possibility they’ve never wet a line before.

Karch’s relationships with FAF and NPAA are crucial, too. He explained, “FAF and NPAA have been vital in Learn 2 Fish With Us accomplishing our mission by providing fishing combos and Future Pro shirts, so youth can continue their fishing experience.”

Karch was asked if there was an example of how learning to fish changed someone’s life. His response was immediate. “There was an unemployed dad who took advantage of our free events to get his kid into the fishing. I heard the kid say he didn’t want to fish. But that first fishing experience stuck. He ended up attending three clinics. And best of all, he came back and won a youth tournament we put on, catching 17 fish.”

The question begs, how does a philanthropic angler get involved in youth education? Karch says step one is talking to local fishing organizations, like clubs. They might already have programs in place, and they’re always in need of extra bodies. Talk to local teachers, too, especially ones you know. Better yet, classrooms your kids or grandkids are in. According to Karch, Big Brothers/Big Sisters are also receptive. “There are so many organizations looking for outside activities, especially post-COVID,” said Karch.

“You want to make a difference when you’re alive,” Karch concluded.

Saint Karch has set a high bar. Getting involved at a lesser level mightn’t yield sainthood, but you’ll certainly be angelic.

Want to learn more or offer your time and expertise? Visit Captain Karch will surely take your call. He can help with planning and hosting, along with recruiting volunteers, product and financial support. Visit Learn to Fish with Us on Facebook.