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Mark Martin caught 43 fish and $2023 was raised for charity thanks to your generous donations!

The power of providing opportunity:

I've always been fascinated in my life in regards to the origin of opportunities. I always like to dive into those memories and try to tie them to events or circumstances that occurred to allow that opportunity to unfold. I find it all rather amazing how easily if you change a rather minor detail here or there how that opportunity may have never come about. For me the Fish-A-Thon is a perfect example of that.

When I grew up it didn't take me long to learn how much I loved to fish. I was extremely fortunate to have a family who also enjoyed the sport and gave me vast opportunities to pursue that passion. At various stages of my life I learned the tricks of the trade from family and friends and even began to write about my adventures. I found people regardless if they fish or not always seem to enjoy a good fishing story. I just absolutely love to fish and always look forward to my next opportunity on the water.

Well one day at work many years ago the topic of fishing came up and a co-worker of mine mentioned that her son had never gone fishing before. Her son was very young but I actually let out an audible gasp of disbelief. But it was right then and there it hit me. I was so engaged into my passion for fishing I never really gave it much thought to those that have never fished or were given an opportunity to fish. I recall this notion didn't set well with me at all and I felt compelled to do something about it. Now often in life you feel that way but not always do you follow up on those intentions. But on this occasion I'm really glad I did. I provided that kid an opportunity to get out fishing and shared in the joy of watching him catch his first fish. His name was Austin Ray.

A few years later Austin saw a sign about the Fish-A-Thon and was interested in raising money for charity and guess who he contacted to see if I would take him fishing? The seed was planted, the dots were connected, and an a opportunity I provided for Austin now turned into an opportunity for both of us to go fishing and provide opportunities to others via the Fishing For Life Charity.

That one simple act of taking a kid fishing has provided me opportunities to mentor, give back, and simply make a difference by doing what I love to do. My desire to take a kid fishing and your generous donations throughout the years to support the Fishing for Life organization has given opportunity to hundreds of kids to get out fishing and perhaps help them find a path on their journey through life. For me in particular it flipped a switch that I discovered that as much as I enjoy catching fish I enjoy even more providing that opportunity for others. I really enjoy showing people what I know about fishing and giving them a very positive experience on the water.

I always reflect back on that decision to take Austin fishing as one of the better ones I made in my life. I so easily could have just let it go and not done anything about it. The lesson learned was the power of opportunity can be incredible when set in motion. I find myself rather awestruck at what a simple thing like providing an opportunity to take a kid fishing all those years ago has grown into. This 11 year history of the Fish-A-Thon is a true testament of exactly that and I thank you all for being a part of it!

Mark Martin's 2016 Fish-A-Thon:

Sept 16th:

The extremely wet and rainy season we have had left the rivers very high and tough to fish for most of the year. Because of this we had to change the location of our 2016 Fish-A-Thon to the Upper stretches of the St. Croix to find more desirable fishing conditions.

I met Brian and Mark at the St. Croix Falls landing and we proceeded about 4 miles north to our desired campsite. After arriving to camp it didn't take long to realize the rather warm and wet start of fall had provided ideal conditions for our State bird the Mosquito. I was very thankful I brought the screen house along. After getting camp set up we got the lines out and it didn't take long for Mark to get on the board with the first fish of the trip, a Red Horse Sucker:

Mark caught several suckers that afternoon from shore and then landed his first Smallmouth of the trip:

We went out in the boats for a bit that evening but didn't have any luck. We got back to camp at dusk and got our shore lines in. Mark caught a number of small channel cats before a heavy downpour thunderstorm came in and basically shut down fishing for the night.

Sept 17th:

Mark was a Redhorse Sucker catching machine this weekend and started the day with another decent fish:

After breakfast we headed out in the boat and did some trolling. Mark hooked into a decent Walleye:

Mark hooked another walleye, a really small walleye, a walleye so small I can't believe that fish went after the lure that was almost as big as he was. But hey, every fish counts when you're fishing for charity big or small:

Then Mark hooked into a Nice Northern:

And we were finding a Smallmouth Bass here and there as well enjoying a very productive morning on the water:

Just before taking a break for lunch we were trolling around a point and Mark's rod bent over like a wet noodle. It was a big fish and giving Mark a run for his money. Both of us were getting pretty excited and I got the net ready. We both got a look at the fish, a very big Smallmouth bass, it took another powerful run and the hook ripped free and she was gone. We both yelled 'nooooooooo!!!' as it happened and we watched our prize swim away. We were so disappointed we weren't able to land it. It would have been one of the bigger Smallmouth I'd ever seen on the Upper Stretches of the St. Croix and the fish of the trip. My estimate was in the 4 to 5 Lb. range. Despite losing that fish it was fun to see Mark really get excited about that fish and learning the hard but inevitable lesson of fishing that often the big one does get away.

After lunch we did some more shore fishing catching a few channel catfish, suckers, and smallmouth before going back out that evening. We focused on the area we lost the big fish on and landed a few walleyes and smallmouth but the big fish remained elusive this evening as we trolled up river in the twilight:

After we got back to camp we put the shore lines back out but it was a pretty quiet evening. Mark had to call it a night early and get a good nights rest as he had a big race day at Elko speedway that had them departing at the crack of dawn the next morning to attend.

Mark ended up catching a total of 7 species and 43 fish this year:

Channel Catfish: 10
Redhorse Sucker: 10
Smallmouth Bass: 10
Walleye: 7
Northern: 3
Sheepshead: 2
Rock Bass: 1

Total: 43

Thanks to your generous donations we raised a total of $2023 for charity!

We didn't get the big fish we had in years past but considering the tough river conditions and last minute location switch I was still happy to get Mark on a good number of fish. Hopefully next year the river will be running at a more normal level so we can chase those big Catfish again. Regardless of what we catch we are fishing for a greater cause here and at the end of the day that's all that really matters.

Thank you all so much for your tremendous support of the Fish-A-Thon. Together over 11 years we have raised $20,926 thanks to your generous donations that are providing countless opportunities to others!

Thanks again my friends and good fishing to ya!

Justin and Mark

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