Once a pro fisherman, Sports Show presenter now casts for new anglers
In the early 2000s Greg Karch of Oshkosh was a case study in burning the candle at both ends.
Not only was he working full-time as an IT developer but he was simultaneously pursuing a mostly weekend passion as a pro walleye angler on several tournament circuits.
To top it off, with the encouragement of his employer, Thrivent, a financial services company with an operations center in Appleton, Karch also was an active volunteer in the community.
He was such a standout on work at Harbor House (a domestic abuse shelter in Appleton) and on Thrivent Builds projects (constructing housing) that in 2009 Karch was awarded the company’s volunteer of the year award.
The 501(c)3 non-profit organization teaches fishing through seminars at sports shows, schools and other sites.
Its motto is: “Educate. Inspire. Fish on!”
Greg Karch will present seminars at the Sports Show on Fishing Basics and Beyond the Basics
Karch grew up in Brookfield and had a friend who he often fished with in area parks and lakes, including Minooka Park in Waukesha.
“I was fortunate to have grown up in a family that supported fishing and I had access to it,” said Karch, 59. “But I know many, many kids don’t have it that way and I wanted to create an organization that could help teach fishing and provide resources to new anglers.”
Karch will bring his top programs to the 2023 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show. On Saturday he’ll present his “Fishing Basics” seminar and on Sunday “Beyond the Basics.”
In addition to education, the clinics offer free tackle to the first 75 attendees under the age of 16.
Now in its 82nd year, the show is the Midwest’s longest-running gathering of fishing, hunting and boating products, travel destinations, activities and entertainment.
Karch, now retired from Thrivent, said his mission is to help get as many kids as possible into the outdoors by fishing.
Fishing has a major economic impact in United States
About 35.8 million Americans age 16 and older went fishing in 2016, while 11.5 million hunted and 86 million watched wildlife, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The survey is conducted every five years; the 2021 report has not been released.
Therefore in 2016, 14% of Americans 16 years of age or older fished, 4% hunted and 34% participated in wildlife watching, according to the USFWS.
In what is widely perceived as a positive development, the number of anglers in the 2016 nationwide survey was up 8% from the previous work in 2011.
Not only do anglers purchase state licenses and stamps that help fund habitat improvement projects, improve boat ramps and public access and support fish stocking programs, but activity in the sport is a major economic force. Anglers spent $46.1 billion in direct expenditures on fishing in 2016, according to the USFWS. Fishing license sales in Wisconsin have shown some fluctuations, including a spike during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but have averaged 1.3 million a year over the last two decades, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Karch said he has hosted 350 fishing clinics and worked with about 80,000 youth and adults since 2007.
“I was a IT developer so I had to break things down and put things together,” Karch said. “I feel like we have a good formula for teaching fishing and we’re excited to share it.”
“There’s nothing better for me than to help start a new angler on their path to fishing,” Karch said. “It’s more rewarding than any tournament trophy could ever be.”
Sports Show dates, times and ticket information
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are available online for $10 at jssportsshow.com or for $12 at the door. Youth tickets (ages 6-17) are $5 online or at the door. Children 5 years old and younger are admitted free. Active-duty military, veterans and first responders are admitted free every day with valid ID or credentials. Reduced admission for seniors (55+), $8 at the door on Thursday, with valid ID. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in uniform get in free on Sunday.
For more information about the show, including details about vendor updates, stage schedules and more, visit the show website or follow on Facebook (facebook.com/JSSportsShow) and Twitter (twitter.com/mjssportsshow).