After the Executive Order 20-19 was given by Governor Tim Walz in late March, a period of distance learning began for the students of Fillmore County. Providing a safe environment became the focus, yet getting outside for exercise, sunshine, and fresh air still needed to be addressed. What better way to achieve this than by grabbing a pole, tackle, bait and heading to the creek. “When school’s out, it’s time for fishing!” says owner of S & S Bait Shop, Steve Volkart, better known as “Springy.”
In those early days of warmer weather a Spring Valley resident, Steve Copeman, walked into S & S Bait Shop at 104 West Main Street with the idea to make a difference in the lives of area youth. In the 34 years Springy has been in business, he has never before had anything like this happen. “I was shocked when just after the schools closed, Steve stopped in on his way to work at the construction site for senior living. He slapped a $100 bill on the counter and said, ‘Use this for the kids!’ then walked out,” recalls Springy.
As it turned out, that generous donation assisted this Spring Valley businessman as young people poured into the shop to purchase bait. “I don’t know what I would have done without Steve’s help,” mentions Springy. “And, he came back numerous times, donating enough money that all of the kids in town could have fished for the summer.”
What moved this couple to offer support to the area youth? “We decided to give money for bait when school was closed, so that the kids in our community would have an opportunity to fish and be outside in general,” remarks Steve’s wife VerLynne.
This couple knows the benefits fishing can bring into the lives of young and old alike, since fishing has been a part of their lives for as long as they can remember. Steve was raised in International Falls, Minn., where he fished with his Grandpa Ralph on Rainy River, Lake of the Woods, and in many other areas. As a child, Steve also spent summers with grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Dale Copeman in Cherry Grove, where time for fishing was part of life.
VerLynne was born and raised in Spring Valley. “I remember going fishing as a kid with my Grandma Westphal at the Ostrander bridge, catching bullheads, of all fish,” she muses. “We have three sons, one daughter, and a daughter in-law. Both our grandson Aydan (15) and granddaughter Madison (4) enjoy fishing, also.”
Although they will not disclose their favorite fishing spot, VerLynne mentioned their favorite bait is nightcrawlers and walleye and trout are at the top of their list of fish they like to catch. Steve comments, “Fishing is a great way to teach patience and spend time with family and friends. We want to encourage people to go fishing and get kids interested in fishing. It’s a great way to make lasting memories.”
The Copemans feel everyone should support small town businesses. “Our town is lucky to have Springy’s bait shop,” continues Steve. “He introduces kids to a great pastime that will last a lifetime.”
Steve is employed by The Joseph Company, based out of Austin and is presently working close to home on the senior living addition in Spring Valley. He believes it is important to show support for local business owners and support ways in which youth are being helped. “Fishing gives kids good things to do and helps them stay out of trouble.” says Steve.
S & S Bait Shop offers more than bait. Everything a person needs to fish, from poles to tackle is available, as well as advice offered by a man who has been helping people learn about fishing since 1987 when Springy and his brother Scott opened this business.
The reactions of those receiving the gift of bait have been very positive. “Springy only had good things to say about how many of our youth were very appreciative of someone they didn’t know doing this. They would not recognize me if they passed me on the sidewalk,” comments Steve. “But they do know that someone cares about them because of the bait they receive and that makes me happy. I’m glad we can make a positive difference in this confusing time.”
Although the Annual Ag Days Kids’ Fishing Contest was cancelled, Springy, with the assistance of Steve and VerLynne Copeman, helped many area young people learn about and enjoy fishing. They want everyone to think about the following saying, “Remember — a bad day fishing is still a good day.”
If any youth or their parents would like to express gratitude for the Copemans’ generosity, feel free to drop a thank you note or photo of their fishing adventure off at S & S Bait Shop.
Call (507) 251-4359 for more information or if you are in Spring Valley, stop at S & S Bait Shop, located just off of Spring Creek that runs through downtown Spring Valley, which is known as one of the best trout streams in SE Minnesota, for your one-stop fishing headquarters, where Springy says, “We’re just your average Joes!”