Fishing Keeps Seniors Hooked On Social Distancing

Dave Livingston, with wife Marge, is eager to extend his social distancing practices on area lakes on Minnesota’s fishing opener May 9. Fishing is an approved activity amid COVID-19 restrictions. Jane Turpin Moore / Forum News Service

WORTHINGTON, Minn. — Dave Livingston — an amiable, well-liked guy — has nevertheless been ahead of the social distancing curve for years.

The enterprising 85-year-old can spend hours in a fishing boat, either alone or with just one close pal, and not even think about what he might be missing on shore.

“I’ve enjoyed fishing for many, many, many years,” he said. “I like it because it’s peaceful and quiet.”

Luckily for Livingston, fishing is on the list of approved activities during Minnesota’s COVID-19 social restrictions. In recent days, Livingston has taken steps to ready his 11-year-old Crestliner for action.

He’s eager to launch onto a nearby lake, likely with his brother Jim in tow, once the state’s fishing opener arrives on May 9.

“I’ve tried ’em all,” Livingston said of the lakes in and around Worthington.

“Okabena, West Graham, East Graham, Clear Lake, Round Lake — we hit ’em all.

“If word gets out they’re catchin’ fish on Round Lake, then bingo, that’s the lake you want to go to.

Then you go there and don’t catch nothing,” he chuckled.

In years past, Livingston and his wife, Marge, 82, would travel north with an RV and a boat to spend time immersed in the wonders of water and nature, elements that inherently enabled healthy social distancing.

“But I haven’t been out fishing for about six years,” said Marge, who is admittedly far less a fishing enthusiast than her husband.

“I used to take along a book to read in the boat.”

In more recent years, Marge has opted to stay at home, often playing cards with friends or engaging in other household pursuits while Dave typically hits the water around 7 a.m. and fishes until midafternoon.

Sustained by ham-and-cheese sandwiches, homemade cookies and coffee that Marge supplies, Livingston is content to let the hours drift by on the still, open water.

“It’s not usually that crowded out on the lakes,” Livingston said, mentioning his preferred catches are walleyes and northerns. He employs mostly minnows and Rapalas as bait.

When fishing isn’t an option and circumstances allow, Livingston also maintains his skill as an archer (the retired owner of the former S & L Garage is also a longtime member of the Southwest Bow Benders) or applies his woodworking skills to make toys or other items in his at-home shop.

“I can usually find something to do,” said Livingston.

Online and aware

Another local octogenarian, 84-year-old Bob Emary, doesn’t necessarily have Livingston’s zest for fishing but does share in a common desire to keep busy and involved with numerous pursuits.

The retired secondary education teacher lost his wife, Judy, last August after 62 years of marriage, and her death has affected his activities to a degree.

“I was doing most of the housework before that, except for the cooking — so I’ve been learning how to cook, and so far I haven’t ruined too many things,” laughed Emary.

Emary usually teaches AARP driver’s safety classes, but all of those have been canceled until at least July 1. Still, his part-time work with District 518 Community Education has continued in some manner online.

Additionally, Emary is assistant treasurer for his church, First United Methodist. He continues to visit the church one morning each week to sign checks, as his role requires it. Additionally, Emary is responsible for circulating the church’s regular prayer chain, and he’s learned to log in to Zoom meetings for fellowship hours.

“Once I got a camera and microphone hooked up to my computer, I was good to go,” said Emary.

“It’s been good to be able to see people while talking to them.”

Making the best of it

Like Emary, the Livingstons also miss their church friends and Sunday service routine.

“We miss going to church, we miss having our usual coffee party,” said Marge Livingston.

Still, as the weather has improved, the Livingstons have engaged in at least two patio parties with a few friends (outdoors, and at socially distance-appropriate lengths, mind you).

Seeing any of their four children, six grandchildren or five great-grandchildren isn’t really an option at present, but other pastimes beckon.

“I read, put together jigsaw puzzles, walk some and bake a little,” said Marge. “I’m looking forward to planting a few flowers soon, too.”

And Dave Livingston anticipates those long, happy hours of voluntary isolation in his Crestliner — preferably if the fish are biting.

“We usually get something.”