No record, but a winning day

Angler can't top his 24-hour mark

Milwaukee Journal SentinelAugust 13, 2009 

— Jeff Kolodzinski lifts his cane pole and swings home a quivering, iridescent payload.


The time is 7:40 a.m. on a recent Friday. The 6-inch bluegill comes to hand and is quickly unhooked and returned to the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

It's the first of what Kolodzinski and an assembled crew of charity workers and volunteers hopes will be many, many more.

As the workday gets in gear in greater Minneapolis, Kolodzinski, too, is on task.

And when he says he's going to spend the day fishing, he means it.

Twenty-four hours. One thousand, four hundred and forty minutes.

Or to measure it another way, about 1,700 fish, give or take. At least that's his goal.

Kolodzinski, 39, of Slinger, Wis., has taken up residence on the shore of Lake Minnetonka in an attempt to break his own record of 1,628 fish caught in a day. That mark, expected to be certified soon by Guinness World Records, was set last August on the same water.

"I'm hoping the bluegills will give me a warm welcome," says Kolodzinski, perched atop a dock behind Maynard's Restaurant. "I know I'm looking forward to seeing them."

The morning dawned warm and calm. A quartet of loons flew overhead, calls echoing among the shoreline dwellings.

"Good omen," says Tom Goodrich, executive director of Fishing For Life, an organization that serves youth in Minnesota and Wisconsin through fishing.

The fishing action follows suit. Bluegills and pumpkinseed sunfish swarm in the weedy shallows and readily take Kolodzinski's bait. He catches and releases as many as five per minute.

After two hours, the total stands at 299.

The event combines elements of charity, education and commerce. Kolodzinski is a seven-time member of the U.S. World Fishing Team and works as vice president of marketing at Frabill Inc., a fishing tackle manufacturer in Jackson, Wis.

Sponsors of the event include Frabill and the Twin Cities Chapter of Muskies Inc.

Money raised will benefit Fishing For Life as well as promote an Armed Forces Family Fishing Celebration planned for Aug. 21 on Lake Minnetonka. The event will take families with a deployed service member out for a day of fishing.

"We all needed someone to take us fishing the first time," said Kolodzinski, citing a list of his fishing mentors that includes his uncle Jim and professional angler Mick Thill. "I hope this somewhat wacky event can inspire lots of people to do just that."

Kolodzinski's gear includes a telescoping "cane pole on steroids" and 20,000 maggots to be attached three at a time to tiny Size 12 hook.

He sports a fingerless glove on his left hand to protect from fish spines. A visor shields his eyes, and a hook disgorger rests behind his ear.

Shortly after 6 p.m., a string of bluegills pushes Klodzinski's total to 1,258.

About 9 p.m. the mood, and the horizon, darken. Within a half-hour, lightning, heavy rain and high winds whip through the marina. The team takes shelter and loses about two hours to the storm.

Perhaps worse, the storm was the leading edge of a cold front, leaving cooler air and brisk winds in its wake. Not an angler's best friend.

The count is stuck at 1,381 for several hours. About 3 a.m., the action picks up again. A bluegill is landed every few minutes.

At 7 a.m., the count is 1,495.

The clock counts off the final minutes, and though more fish are landed, it's clear Kolodzinski's 2008 record is safe.

"But I wanted to beat me," he says, shoulders slumping as the clock strikes 7:40.

The catch total of 1,556 is perhaps the only thing that falls short. Several additional sponsors have come forward for the charities. And there are plans to bring in dozens of kids next year to challenge Kolodzinski on another attempt.

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