fox river sunset

Why I Quit Fishing

There are a few reasons why I quit fishing, but the main reason is pictured above.

My favorite time of the day to go out fishing was always the last three hours of the day. Sunsets seem to last longer. Now I still go out for the last three hours of the day, but with a camera rather than a rod.

I didn’t fish much and never a river before I turned 40. After that, fishing the Fox River and the creeks that feed it became an obsession. For 19 years that’s all I really cared about doing.

It was all about the fishing and even though I was out on the water during hundreds of sunsets, there were fish to be caught. If I stopped for a second I might get off a half way decent shot of the sunset, but I had to get back to fishing. I was losing my light.

19 years later and 10,000 smallies caught, give or take a couple of hundred, enough was enough. This would have been my 20th year, but I didn’t see any point and going out to catch one more fish.

Now I go out at those same hours of the day and pace back and forth in one of many areas where I know the sunset could be spectacular. It doesn’t always happen, but the anticipation is worth it. I get to watch the light slowly wane and change and glow and reflect off my surroundings. Something I never did when catching a fish was the point of being out there.

To me, being in the right spot to photograph the sunset pictured above, along with the 70 or so other photo’s taken that evening, was much more important than being on the other side of the river, behind the island, drifting lures in the fast and slow running water. All to catch smallie number 10,000 and one.

Standing and pacing and watching the play of light is much more rewarding.

Over those 19 years I’ve also cruised many, many miles on back roads all along the river and to it’s creeks.

back road

It was rare that I ever stopped very long, maybe long enough to get off a quick shot. I had a fishing spot to get to, fish to be caught.

Now, I cruise those same back roads during those same last 3 hours of daylight. Only now I don’t hesitate in stopping if something catches my eye.


Now I go out looking for the perfect sunset clouds.


the barn

Or I’ll head out if it looks like a good storm will be passing through.

the barn

I think it’s time better spent than chasing still another fish and letting my surroundings go ignored.

I have no clue if my photo’s are all that great. I don’t know if I care one way or the other. But like fishing once was, I now can’t imagine being out there and not trying to capture something.

For those that have followed along with all that I’ve written over the years, why I quit fishing probably seemed inevitable. My writing and the photo’s that went with them never really had anything to do with fishing. At least I tried to give that impression, but in my head I had to be there for the fish. Now I want to focus on the photo’s and all those spots I walked and drove right by.

If anything comes of that, that would be nice. If not, that would still be nice.

In an effort to take this new direction seriously, I’ve already started a Facebook page for Ken Gortowski Photography where photo’s have been going up.

I also have a website up and running called that is still under construction as I figure out the design and then populate it with all the photo’s I’ve taken over the years.

I’m looking forward to how this all pans out.

In the mean time, in my spare time, I’ll still be out wandering around those last few hours and minutes of daylight. Revisiting back roads I breezed down in the past, heading out to the river and creeks and concentrating on the details I passed up over the years.

And, just like when I used to fish, I’ll stay out to the very end, for that last little bit of light, for the perfect conditions.

And, just like fishing, you have to stay to the very end.

The very end tends to produce the best results.


17 thoughts on “Why I Quit Fishing

  1. Howard Levett

    Although I think you did some great fishing posts over the years, it’s hard to argue after looking at those photographs, that you were starting to aim in another (dare I say more meaningful) direction. I’m starting to veer off course myself due to circumstances beyond my control, but it doesn’t really feel too bad.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I always carried a camera with me Howard and thought I did a decent job of documenting my surroundings. Now I’m concentrating a little harder on the surroundings. Part of this is driven by circumstance too. Time. I only have so much. It took about 2 years to walk up to moving water and not fish it. Now I look for photo ops. Sometimes I get something decent…

  2. Mike Sepelak

    I totally get it. As we evolve it becomes less and less about the fishing and more and more about capturing the beauty of the moment, whether it’s with a camera, a pen, or simply in the mind’s eye. At some point, many eventually choose to put down the rod altogether. Yeah. I totally get it.

    Great images, sir.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Thanks Mike. For me, even though I fished obsessively, it was all about the experience of being out there exploring and admiring what was available so close to a major metro area. I think I finally realized how much of the beauty of my surroundings I was missing by my need to catch a fish while immersed in it. Decided to end that.

      Also, I’m gettin’ old, like it or not. I like to think I’m mellowing with age (HA!, on some levels at least), and this is my way of doing that.

  3. andy paetzold

    since I’ve gotten a boat and fish live bait for flatheads it gives me plenty of time to sit back and take it all in ,those pictures you put up sum it all up perfectly, great work

    1. Ken G Post author

      Thanks Robin. I’ve been trying to organize years worth of photo’s and it’s proving to be a challenge. I’m hoping the cold of winter and not wanting to be in it will make more time. Now, I’d rather be outside.

  4. Mark Simon

    I heard a quiet sigh of relief from the smallmouth…

    About nine years ago I was wandering in the library and picked up a small book called “What Fish Don’t Want You to Know” by Frank P. Baron. The title was enough to catch me, and his writing style really entertained. (The chapter on Ethics was worth the book). Anyway, reading this re-ignited my interest in fishing. The fishing interest led me to fishing message boards. Truth is, I wouldn’t have read your blog if it weren’t for this.

    A long while ago I went searching for Baron on the internet. Seems he also steered from fishing into photography.

    I think your photos are great. More than that, the way you share them, like the fishing, is a gift I hope you’ll keep giving.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Thanks Mark. Based on averages, there are approximately 500 smallies out there without holes in their lips. And that’s if I had a slow year.

      I’m going to have to look into that book. Christmas is coming and my daughters always struggle to find me something, I don’t want or need much, but I like a good read. I’m going to look him up too. I’m hoping he mentions why he made the switch.

      In case you didnt’ notice, I’m switching over to another site for the photography. Just put up my first post yesterday, have a bunch of galleries I have to get up and running. It’s a project, but hopefully worth it in the long run. I’m going to keep WDJ up and running, I may not be done fishing and hunting yet.

      In case you missed it…

      Ken Gortowski Photography

  5. Jeff G

    Good for you going from one love to another. Sounds like you’re really loving life 👍. I’m at that stage in life that you were. I can’t get enough fishing. I usually have my camera strapped on my back and I do get some good pics, but like you said I’ve probably missed alot of good ones as the trout are the priority.

    Take care…

    1. Ken G Post author

      Thanks Jeff and especially addictive are little creeks and rivers. One of these days I might travel somewhere where one actually holds a trout.

      This spring I have it in my head to do some creative shots with smallies, but of course, I have to go catch them first and I know just the creeks to be in come May.

  6. Live For Outdoors

    Our passion in fishing will always be with us, but trying new things like photography is a different story. You are really good and those pictures prove it. All i can say is they are BEAUTIFUL, good job


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