Heartland Outdoors: Through the Lens

Time to Run the Nets!

Tuesday, June 26

Imagine heading up river in the early morning light in hopes of having nets full of fish. That’s a twice a week endeavor for Ron Joellenbeck who at age 80 is still setting and running nets each week on the lower Kaskaskia.

“Jolly” as he is known around the neighborhood has been running nets and chasing fish since the mid 1970’s, and plans to keep going as long he has a couple a good helpers. “I can sill do it, but boy I am slower than I used to be.” He laughed.

I have the pleasure of being friends with Jolly and my husband took one of his vacation/ retirement practice days last week to help Jolly “run nets”. There might have been a mishap or two with a couple of big buffs arcing out of hubby’s grasp and back into the river instead of the barrel. Jolly now refers to Mr. Steele as “Buffalo Man”, and will likely still be hounding him about losing the buffs for the next 20 years!

Seems as if running the hoop net sets is a dying art these days. Likely because it’s more work than most young folks want to contend with. Tagging, setting maintaining the nets. The license fees, and record keeping requirements can be daunting. Add in the various regulations and the ever-increasing numbers of silvers and big heads that end up in the nets in place of what used to be mostly catfish and buffalo and most younger folks just don’t want to be bothered. Here’s a look at the commercial regs in Illinois.

The day isn’t done when the nets are emptied into the boat either – then it’s time to clean all those fish! My dearly beloved has been known to grumble “You have to really like cleaning fish if you are going to run nets”.

Be sure to watch for the August print issue – I’ll be writing more in depth about “Runnin’ Nets” and what it’s been like for my friend Mr. Joellenbeck to hold a commercial license all these years. Things have changed, the rivers have changed, but a few crabby old men – they are still out there hauling in the nets in the early morning hours.

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