On the Pokemon cartoon series, there’s a character named Goh, whose ambition is simply to encounter and capture every single type of fighting creature in the Pokemon universe. From the grub-like Weedle to the majestic azure legendary horse-like being Suicune and all sorts of different ones in between, that’s his only goal — to experience the variety of what is available to him, and take part in it, collecting the varied species of Pokemon along the way. He truly embodies the franchise’s motto of “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!”
I know all this because first, my boys are now six and eight, and second, we just spent the better part of two weeks inside our house as six-foot drifts covered my boat which was parked and re-wrapped in its cover after a few chilly outings before the biggest April blizzard on record swept over the area. In that time of sub-freezing April days, Goh and his buddy Ash — whom one could argue is the star of the show by his driven protagonist arch — featured prominently on the TV screen, and in our discussions over the kitchen table where we figured out the mechanics of how the Pokemon card game was played in the real world. As I flipped through the blue, red and yellow cards with familiar faces from the series like Sobble, Charmander and the ubiquitous Pikachu, I began to identify more with Goh, and thought of my similar path in the outdoors.
I’m certainly not a tournament angler like a number of my friends, having experienced that frustration once or twice on just a local level in my lifetime before deciding it wasn’t for me. The outdoors, after all, I’ve always felt is a place where the only competition is with oneself and with nature, armed with the gear and the knowledge you have and not to be measured against another person. In that situation, I’m usually only bested by just one opponent, and not 49 others.
I’ve not been driven in a large part by the lure of a state record either, though I must admit that the thought of landing the biggest smallmouth bass in history has crept into my daydreams when wandering down the soft plastic aisle at the local sporting goods store. While I’ve often thought I’d release such a fish in that moment, I find myself second guessing my conservation-focused nature around my favorite species when the fame of being the greatest at something, even if just for a short period of time , is on the line. Now, if it was just the state record walleye, I might keep that without a second thought.
Certainly, I don’t strive to specialize in one fish either. While I can appreciate the drive exhibited by folks that live to chase walleyes all weekend, or those under the influence of a muskie fever so intense it pushes their efforts to the extreme when it comes to gear, travel, boats and even off-season obsession projects, I find my afflictions shifting from week to week in any given season. With perch in the winter, pike as the ice gives way, crappies in the warming waters of spring, bass and walleyes all summer long, and trout in the cool flows of fall, the calendar presents so many options and so many ways of fishing for them, I’m simply unable to stick with one and figure out its seasonal moves and want entirely.
These are the reasons I identify with Ash’s sidekick Goh and appreciate his view of the universe of creatures that battle in the ultra-competitive arenas, and simply roam the forests, mountains and waters of the Pokemon world. Like him, I am a cataloger of events with a love of the variety the outdoors has to offer, and while trying to best all other angles on the water, catching the biggest, most notable fish, or even becoming an expert for a certain species are all excellent pursuits on the water and I laud those who have the drive, skill and resources to do so; for me the challenge remains simply to catch ’em all … in our outdoors.