Every problem has a solution, and for Shannon Allen, that solution is usually an afternoon with his fishing family.
Growing up, that meant fishing the Arkansas River with his father. Now, Allen, along with his wife and a few friends, have decided to pay the philosophy forward in the form of the MNKS catfishing club, a family-focused social group centered around fishing that isn’t afraid to reach out to its members in their lives beyond the lake.
“Our basis is family,” Allen said. “It’s not a man’s group, it’s not a woman’s group. It’s family — a husband and wife and his kids, grandparents, and their children. We’re open to everybody.”
Allen and his wife, Twila, started the group in late 2014. They have a 16-year-old son, Joe. For them, fishing means family time.
What fuels Allen’s philosophy is the premise that anyone can fish. Never was this more true to Allen than in the case of his mother, who didn’t become interested in fishing until she retired.
“It was something else, seeing this little gray-haired lady’s face light up over a little perch,” he said.
He recently reached out through the group to Bethesda Home in Goessel, where Twila had a brother with ALS. The club invited anyone else in the home who wanted to come, and about six residents ended up going fishing, he said.
The group is working to get a state-certified fishing class. This would allow the group to teach fishing without requiring participants to have fishing licenses.
Allen hopes availability will encourage more people to fish.
The club held a Kids Day Saturday morning. The event featured safety workshops and fishing instruction.
“It’s just something we try to do to get the kids out from in front of the TV,” Allen said.
Allen said they had trouble Saturday when many parents came to the event expecting to drop off their kids and leave.
“That’s not what we’re about,” he said.
Nonetheless, many of the dozen or so in attendance caught their first fish. Others were experienced but eager to hit the lake with their parents or grandparents.
“There’s not enough of it,” Aaron Cookus of Marion said. Cookus took 6-year-old son Dakota to the lake to fish, which he said he does frequently along with other outdoor activities. “That’s our problem anymore, there’s not enough outdoor stuff for kids to do.”
Steve “Catfish” Harbison ran into Allen at a bait shop in Newton, where Harbison’s from. He said they struck up a conversation, and he decided to take his grandson, Kyle Repshire, 6, of Goessel.
Harbison said it was a great idea to have a fishing group in Marion County, given the area’s lakes.
After not catching anything all day, Repshire was ecstatic to reel in a channel cat when Harbison hooked one with Repshire’s pole. As Harbison grabbed the fish from water, the boy turned around and jumped, shouting his accomplishment to those waiting for the complimentary hot dogs to cook.
The group focuses on fishing, but isn’t afraid to go beyond. It will hold a “Sober Dance” Aug. 15 at County Lake Hall. Proceeds will go to a Newton group that incorporates scripture verses into the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program.
Allen said there are “a good number” of recovering alcoholics and addicts in the group. Since many social activities involve alcohol, Allen wanted to provide a safe alternative.
“People that are recovering don’t need that kind of temptation in front of them,” he said.
The club hosted its first major tournament Saturday.
Brian Pavlicek won the contest by catching five fish that totaled 27 pounds. He took home more than $400 in prize money.