This past 4th of July will most likely be one holiday 12-year-old Parker Welch of Merrill may never forget.
While fishing with her father Alan, Parker shattered three state fish records and re-wrote the books all in the same day that Tuesday; spin-casting a fish story that begins with the love between a daughter and her father and their appreciation for Wisconsin’s lesser known fish: shorthead redhorse; golden redhorse; and stonecat.
“It was exciting,” says Parker.
Her fish story begins 40 years ago, when her dad was growing on up a resort on Pelican Lake between Rhinelander and Antigo. From the time Alan Welch could walk he was catching fish, and by the time he was his daughter’s age he was guiding resort guests on fishing trips and cleaning the fish they caught for money to buy a new bike.
“I caught thousands of walleye and musky,” Alan Welch says. “To keep it interesting, I got into fish identification and I’d start going after weird stuff – fish like gar and carp. They are harder to catch because people don’t target them and there is no information on them.”
When his daughter Parker was a toddler, Welch introduced her to fishing and the two became fishing buddies, a shared bond and commitment to the outdoors that mom Jackie Welch appreciates. Parker became an accomplished angler although the father and daughter mostly focused on lesser known species in surrounding lakes and streams.
Parker enjoys fishing, and continues to make time for it even as she maintains a 4.0 Grade Point Average in school, serves as the wrestling team manager, and shot her first buck this fall.
“I like spending time with my dad,” Parker says. “Whatever he’s trying to catch, I try to catch too.”
One day last year her father told her about his idea of trying to set multiple fish records. “I wanted to do it all on the same day so it was hard to beat,” he says.
That the pair set out to accomplish the feat on July 4th was coincidental; they knew from fishing those species before that the catching was easier when it was sunny and hadn’t rained for a couple of days. Fishing from shore with nightcrawlers, Parker caught the shorthead red horse in the morning on the Prairie River.
“At that point, I think we knew we could get all three in a day,” Alan says.
Parker caught the golden redhorse at noon, and then the pair went home until nighttime, when they went fishing on the Wisconsin River and caught the stonecat, a member of the catfish family whose name reflects its habit of hiding out under stones or logs during the day.
The fishing duo took Parker’s catches to a meat market in Wausau to get them weighed.
“Most of them had never seen a fish like that. We had some comments, but they were happy for us,” Alan Welch says.
The daughter and father fishing duo are not ready to rest on their laurels. They’re angling for two records this summer: greater redhorse and longnose sucker.
Special thanks to the Wisconsin DNR office in Madison for their assistance.