As a kid, Al Lindner didn’t dream of becoming a magazine publisher, TV personality or the owner of a media company. He fantasized instead only about fishing, and how he could make a living doing it.
“The drive was there from a very young age, and whatever I did, that was the goal, whether as a guide or whatever, to earn a living fishing,’’ he said. “Fortunately, my mother encouraged me.’’
Al’s big brother, Ron, had similar ambitions, and the Lindner brothers ultimately would leverage those interests to achieve their twin goals of fishing, and getting paid for fishing.
Now semi-retired, the Lindners in their lifetimes have caught tens of thousands of fish. To pay for those thrills, and to pay other bills, they’ve written countless fishing books and articles and filmed even more countless television shows, culminating in 1974 with the founding of In-Fisherman, the parent company for the sport fishing magazine and nationally syndicated radio and TV shows of the same name that they sold to Primedia in 1998.
Throughout their lifetimes, Al and Ron also have developed and marketed fishing rigs that are standards in the industry, including the Lindy Rig and the No-Snagg sinker.
Today, Lindner Media, which brothers Dan and James Lindner, Ron’s sons, founded in 2002, produces the popular “Angling Edge” TV show, among others, and includes among its commercial accounts some of fishing’s biggest names, including Rapala, Lund, St. Croix rods, MinnKota and Humminbird.
Now Al and his son Troy are launching a new fishing project. This one will occur not in midsummer on Gull Lake near Brainerd, but in October, hard by that same lake, at Cragun’s Conference Center and Resort, where they intend to show others who want to work in the fishing industry how to do it.
Just maybe this latest effort will have as much impact on the sport of fishing as anything the Lindners have done.
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The idea of hosting an all-day workshop that explores the many ways people can make a living in the fishing and outdoor industry arose last year while Al and Troy returned from a reunion of Camp Fish campers and counselor-instructors.
Camp Fish, on Long Lake near Walker, was purchased by Al and Ron in 1983. The camp offered kids and adults opportunities to receive detailed fishing instruction in weeklong settings.
Many campers returned multiple times to improve their fishing knowledge and skills. Canadian fly-ins were part of the coursework, as were adult/child sessions and adult workshops. Many former campers are working in the fishing business today.
Though popular and highly regarded, Camp Fish was closed in 1991.
This summer, Troy is exploring the idea of restarting the camp, and possibly taking the concept to other cities to expose more people to fishing while at the same time recruiting them to the angling fold.
The effort is important because fishing participation is waning as the nation becomes increasingly urbanized. A business opportunity exists, the Lindners believe, because people who want to learn to fish have few places to turn.
“Last year was the 25th year since we closed the camp, and to mark the anniversary we held a reunion of people who attended as students, as well as camp counselors,’’ Al said. “It was a great time, and on the way home, Troy and I got to talking about how many people dream as kids of working in the fishing industry, and at the same time how many people don’t know how to get started or don’t know about the many jobs available in fishing.’’
The father-son duo subsequently queried friends, family members, colleagues and others who worked in the fishing business. The discussions, Al said, were eye-opening.
“The attraction that drew almost all of them to the business was an interest in fishing,’’ he said.
And while the “stars’’ of the business often draw the most attention and interest — in much the same way LeBron James inspires kids to pick up a basketball — chances are slim that given individuals will attain that status.
“Which is OK,’’ Al said, “because there are other ways to work in the industry.’’
To make that point, Al and Troy have assembled a range of professionals to appear at the Oct. 28 workshop at Cragun’s, including:
Seth Feider, Bassmaster Elite pro angler; Tom Neustrom, guide and fishing-product promoter; Joel Nelson, writer and TV personality; Bill Lindner, photographer and videographer; Mike Hehner, field producer, Lund’s Ultimate Fishing Experience TV; Brett McComas, owner, Stout Outdoors; John Janousek, sales manager, Rassat Outdoor Group; Tim Collette, conservation officer; Mark Fisher, director of field promotions, Rapala; Marc Bacigalupi, area fisheries supervisor, DNR; Matt Johnson, Ice Team manager/pro staff director, Clam Outdoors; and Grant Prokop, independent retailer, Thousand Lakes Sporting Goods.
Cost of the workshop is $250. Young people high school and college age, as well as those up to age 30 and even older, are encouraged to attend, Al said.
“People who love the outdoors, but don’t quite have a direction yet, or who are looking for a change,’’ he said.
More information and online registration is available at www.mycampfish.com.