Over the past few years the amount of anglers seen wading the Fox River has whittled down to almost nothing. For a two year stretch where I thought I was getting out quite a bit, I ran into no one.
Things have improved a little. Last year I ran into a half dozen anglers. So far this year, two.
I guess that's an improvement.
Sunday mornings, especially beautiful Sunday mornings like we're experiencing today, brings people out. To do something, anything. It used to mean anglers all over the river getting an early start. Something to do for a few hours before heading home for a mid day cook out, or perhaps taking a nap in a hammock or a comfortable outdoor recliner.
I had to do some running around this morning. Took me past a local golf course where the parking lot was full. Had to be at least a couple of hundred cars. The average greens fees for a Sunday morning at this course is $40. Sounds like a good and profitable day to me.
Near home in Yorkville I stopped at the Marge Cline Whitewater Course. The parking lot along the river, next to Freeman Sports where you can rent canoes and kayaks, was full of cars. At the head of the whitewater course is the new Geneva Kayak Center, I think they're calling it the Yorkville Outdoor Center. Whatever the name, their parking lot was full.
As far as you can see up and down the river there were canoes and kayaks. More were on the shore waiting to go out. A handful of kayakers were playing in the whitewater of the course.
Between the golf course and Yorkville, I drove along and stopped at a couple of places along the river.
Parking lots were empty. In three miles of river, not a single person was seen. This is a stretch I've written about endlessly since I first fished it 11 years ago. With the guiding and fishing classes I've done in the past, I've shown this stretch to a couple of hundred anglers. There was no sign of anyone.
Back in Yorkville, beyond all those enjoying their canoes and kayaks, not a single angler was seen anywhere. In this little stretch I once counted 27 anglers out walking around in the river.
They're all gone.
Further down near my home, no one was to be seen. I wanted to blame a lack of time for the lack of interest in being out fishing the river, but there were all these other people out enjoying outdoor activities, from golf to biking to canoeing and kayaking.
Where did all the anglers go?
Wading a river is the easiest, cheapest way to enjoy fishing. Once a minimal amount is invested in waders and gear, they can last for years. All you need to do is get to the river, throw on the waders and head out into the water with rod and lures in hand. On average I spend less than $100 a year on gear and I think I'm averaging 50 fishing trips a year, maybe more.
I'm not sure there's any way to fix this, to get anglers interested in wading and fishing the rivers around here, I've tried. I like to think I've written enough about the Fox River over the years to garner some kind of interest. I've put up hundreds of photos not only of some of the fish caught, but of the beautiful surroundings that can only be seen and experienced while standing out in the middle of the river.
I'm also not sure what else can be done to get anglers out wading the rivers, the interest seems to have just disappeared.