Two College Students Put Off Freshman Year, Attempt to Catch Every State Fish

by Will Shepard

Two college students are taking a gap year, and they have a specific purpose in mind. They are going to try and catch at least one state fish, a piece, in every state.

In August of last year, Luke Konson and Daniel Balserak were going to start their freshman year at Clemson University. But, when COVID-19 hit, the two decided that they were going to hold off going to their first year at school. Instead, the pair of Virginia based anglers were going to do a fishing road trip across the country.

So, like a popular skier calling his fifty ski descents “The Fifty Project,” these two college students named their trip “Fish All Fifty.” The intention was simple for them, land each state’s official fish.

For those that fish, you will know that this is no small task. There is heavy preparation that goes into figuring out how to catch a certain type of fish, let alone each state’s official fish.

But, the two college students, Balserak and Konson were set on the project. So, the two began living out of one of their parents’ Honda Odyssey minivan. So far on the trip, the two have traveled roughly 22,000 miles with the van.

Two College Students Are Fishing the Lower 48 States as a Gap Year

On the journey, they are going from state to state, sleeping in Walmart and Bass Pro parking lots. Almost every moment in the van is spent figuring out where and how to catch their next fish. Again, for the guys to be able to move onto the next state on their list, they have to each catch the state fish.

So far, they have been on the road for five months. During their time, the two college students have each caught the official state fish in 28 states. This puts them well on their way to cashing in on their goal.

In an interview with Field & Stream, the two college students, Balserak and Konson, talk about their journey. Amongst many questions, the trip so far has been a blast for them.

Before they began the trip, neither of them had been to more than ten states. Even though it is primarily a fishing trip, they are using it as an excuse to see the entirety of America. Not only that, but the two are getting to see the lesser-known places in each state.

As southern boys, the colder parts of the country are a little bit foreign to them. But, they say that they are getting used to that fairly quickly.

Balserak and Konson Are Thoroughly Enjoying the Trip

The two college students are asked about their favorite place to fish. Each of them responds that, so far, Wisconsin has been the most fun.

“We got to fish for muskies there. We met some really nice people and caught four muskies in two days. Thomas Droste was one of our guides, and man did he know how to catch fish.”

Konson echoes Balserak’s sentiment. He also provides a little insight into fishing for muskies in “America’s Dairyland.”

Daniel caught a muskie with Thomas, but we both have to catch one to move on. We got connected to another guide named Erik Lennartz through a reporter. He guides for several species but primarily for muskie in the wintertime, and he put us on some fish. We caught three muskies and a 30-inch northern pike in eight hours. It was unbelievable”

The two college students talk about how much better this is making them at fishing. They mention that the two of them have put in ten-hour days in frigid temperatures just to get skunked. This rings particularly true to any fisherman who is ice fishing without any luck recently.

Additionally, they say that if they only got one more day to fish for the rest of their lives, they’d take to Maine. But, one river, in particular, stands out above all the other fishing they have been doing.

“So far, it would have to be the Penobscot River in Maine. We’d go up there and fish for salmon and brook Trout. It’s such a wild place. We saw three moose cross the river 50 yards down from us. It was mind-blowing.”

Even though there are people who are certainly jealous of their trip, the two college students are loving their time. Luckily for them, the fishing around Clemson University is pretty good. They will certainly take advantage of that next year.