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Fishing Report: Two teens trying to catch every state fish in the US

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 10:30 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Luke Konson and Daniel Balserak are trying to become the first people, to Alaska’s Sports Source’s knowledge, to catch every state fish in the United States.

The two are 19 years old and were all set to go to Clemson University in South Carolina for their freshman year of college when the pandemic threw a wrench in their plans.

Instead of attending class online, Konson came up with the plan and called his friend Balserak, and before they knew it they were out on the open road in a family minivan.

“We have done it in three or four different legs,” Konson said. “We did the Northeast then the Midwest, then the South then the West Coast. And we just drive to state to state and stay there as long as it takes to catch the fish, and sleep in our car in like a Walmart parking lot or a rest stop.”

Konson said the minivan isn’t that bad and that the seats recline all the way down. They have done the trip on their own and only had one bad incident that involved totaling their van. Thankfully, no one was injured and the trip powered on.

“It kind of started as a vacation idea but ended as this crazy adventure because we have met a lot of people that have helped in GoFundMe and crowdfunding, and helping us fish,” Balserak said.

Sleeping in their mode of transportation has really helped cut down on travel costs, but they still needed money for food and for fishing gear and trips. They raised the money through GoFundMe and other crowdfunding resources. The two said they have also met many people along the way who have donated their services, including lodging and fishing trips, in an attempt to help them on their journey. This time around it was Jim Voss, creator of the app Alaska FishTopia, who will be the subject of a fishing report in the future.

Alaska is their 49th state, so the two have seen some serious fish, but in Alaska they say it is just different.

“Everything seems like it is turned up to the max in terms of nature,” Balserak said. “Everything is way more wild, less people, and honestly the people have been super nice to us.”

It took them a few days to pull in Alaska’s state fish, the king salmon. Now they are trying to catch other salmon before their Alaska leg of the trip is over. They jumped on with Talon Air Service for a fly out fishing experience to the Big River Lakes.

The water was a beautiful greyish blue color due to the glacial silt in the area, but when the group got up to the fishing spot, the water was clear and the fish were aplenty. They nearly caught the limit of sockeye right away, but the group weren’t the only ones fishing.

They saw nine bears in the area — two moms with two different sets of three cubs, and a lone black bear who even caught a fish right in front of the group. They could have sat and watched the bears all day but had some serious fishing to do.

The group jumped around to a few different places and switched the rigs out to some cured salmon eggs and a bobber in hops to catch a silver salmon. Eventually a member of the group pulled one in the boat and while it wasn’t Konson or Balserak who caught the fish, they said it was the coolest part of the trip, because neither of them had ever seen one in person.

“This is my favorite state, this state is crazy,” Konson said. “I mean we have gotten to fish for king salmon, sockeye, silvers, halibut. We’ve caught cod and a whole bunch of other stuff. We have seen moose and different kinds of bears and there are eagles flying around everywhere and the days are super long.”

Now the two will head back to their home state of Virginia where they will catch their 50th and final state fish. To learn more about their epic journey you can do so at their website, Fish All Fifty.

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