Turning 40 during the COVID-19 pandemic left Levi Bonnice looking for something to mark the milestone.
“When we were put into this quarantine, I found myself doing a lot more fishing than I ever had before,” he said in September. “With my kids not having any scheduled after school activities, it was easier for me to spend more time doing this.”
“This” was his brainstorm to fish for 40 different fish species.
“I thought to myself, ‘Huh, this might be something. What if I were to catch 40 different species before the end of the year?’ And then it went from being a joke to something serious,” he said.
His original goal was to catch the 40 fish by the end of the calendar year, but he amassed so many varied fish quicker than he thought.
Bonnice, a Falls Twp. supervisor and vice president of A. Pickett Construction in Kingston, then set up a revised goal- to catch the 40 by his birthday on October 10.
By Sept. 27, he had 35.
“I was getting nervous,” said Bonnice. “It was too close. I took all day off of work on Friday to make sure I could have the time to get that last one.”
Bonnice caught his 40th fish, a brown bullhead, at 7 p.m. Friday night, the day before his birthday.
“I was getting all sorts of other fish- walleye, muskies- but I didn’t need them. I was having no luck at all,” he reflected.
But after spending the whole day out with his father, and the evening with his wife, the angler was successful in a local farm pond.
He added, “I was getting frustrated, I didn’t know if I was going to make it.”
Bonnice said that to him, fishing is supposed to be relaxing, and since he does not fish in tournaments or competitions, this was the most competitive he has been.
With an admitted amount of extra pressure, Bonnice recorded his final catches with a blowfish, a sea bass, a blackfish, a spot, which is a type of croaker, and the final brown bullhead.
“After the article came out (in September), people were encouraging me to get it done by my actual birthday, but it was tough,” he said. “Everyone has been very supportive, my boss even let me off work on Friday so I could try to finish this ‘Drive for the Final Five.’”
“I did learn a few things on the quest,” he reflected. “I learned that it isn’t as easy to catch all these different species of fish as you would think. I fish the river a lot- I mean a lot- and I guess I never realized just how many bass I actually reel in.”
Also, Bonnice said he was able to quantify how much gear he has, uses, and of course, still needs.
“I think I am more patient since I started,” he said.
Now a more diverse fisherman, Bonnice admitted he accomplished things he never would have considered if not for this challenge.
“I never realized the opportunities available to fishing in Florida, there are so many different types of fish to catch in different bodies of water, ones I had never tried before.”
What’s next for the fisherman?
“Well, it is hunting season now,” he laughed. “I also have a long list of household projects that were neglected while I was fishing. My wife and daughters have been so supportive, but it is time to keep up on the other things. And hunt.”