The Van Trump Report

COOL STORY – Two Kids Spend “Gap Year” Catching State Fish from Every State

I thought this was a crazy cool idea and what a great experience for the boys! Luke Konson and Daniel Balserak set out during their gap year (time between high school graduation and college enrollment) to catch the state fish in all 50 states and ended up with an unforgettable adventure. Below is an excerpt that ran on Outdoor’s blog site. You can read the full story HERE

The COVID-19 pandemic hit during the spring of Luke’s senior year in high school. He was heading to Clemson University in the fall of 2020, but the college delayed the semester five weeks and then moved classes online. So Luke and his dad got to thinking: what else might he do? To their knowledge, no one had ever tried to catch the state fish in every U.S. state—sort of like birding’s Big Year challenge but for fish.

Luke loved the idea, and dubbed the quest Fish All Fifty. He then ran the idea by his buddy Daniel Balserak, who’d also enrolled at Clemson. Balserak, who had similarly been taught to fish by his father at age four, managed to convince his own parents to let him go. In August 2020, the two 18-year-olds loaded up the Konson family minivan and prepared to set out.

The not-so-small acts of kindness stuck out to Luke Konson and Daniel Balserak. Local anglers shared priceless intel about how to catch their state’s official fish and, Konson says, “Got us onto spots we had no business being.”

In Hawaii, a family let the two borrow their minivan to get around the island, and a sailor offered the teenage boys a place to stay. Trying to catch channel catfish in Iowa, they pulled into a Raising Cane’s restaurant for directions and met a man who recognized them from a story in a local paper. He’d read about their mission to catch the state fish in every U.S. state. He wished them luck, then handed them $200.

A fishing guide in Alaska donated time and resources. A governor honored them at the state capitol. Once, they were stuck on a snowy pass in New Mexico, without cell service and 20 miles from the nearest town, when a guy in a four-wheel-drive Jeep reversed back up the mountain and towed them to safety. And during one of their lowest moments, stranded at an auto repair shop in North Carolina with a wrecked van, a stranger booked them a hotel room. All this because they’d set out to catch some fish.

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