Ted Cross, of Washington Township, fishes almost every day.
Cross, 62, looks forward to others testing those waters Monday. Memorial Day is Fish for Free Day. No fishing license is required on any Pennsylvania lake or stream.
"I'd like to see more people get out to fish, especially more kids," Cross said. "They're missing the boat."
They're also missing some of the nation's best and most diverse fishing, including walleye, perch and trout in Lake Erie. A 22-year-old Clarion University of Pennsylvania student reeled in a 29.28-pound lake trout -- and a new state record -- May 6.
There's also walleye at Pymatuning Lake, crappie there and in other inland lakes, and panfish just about everywhere. "Plus steelhead, that's a given. And one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the nation on Presque Isle Bay," said Keith Edwards, of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Northwest Region. "And that's not even touching on stream fishing for trout and wild trout."
Cross has caught all of those fish and more over the past half-century. Now retired from his job as a heavy-equipment operator, he was just 6 years old when his father gave him a cane pole and took him fishing for the first time, for suckers, in Elk Creek.
"I caught a sucker that was taller than me. I brought it home and dragged it all through the house -- over the rug and everything. My mother didn't like it at all," Cross said.
Cross did, and has been fishing ever since. He taught his son, daughter and granddaughter to fish with similar, extended cane poles. "You don't have to have the fanciest stuff," Cross said.
A rod and reel, hook and live bait are pretty much all that's needed, according to the Fish and Boat Commission website. And first-time anglers can borrow most of that on Monday: at Presque Isle State Park, at the Walnut Creek Access in Fairview Township, and at the Pymatuning State Park office in Jamestown.
"You don't have to invest money in gear, even, to try fishing," Edwards said.
Fishing is wonderfully low-tech, said Jim Dimon, 53, of Union City. Dimon fished Lake Pleasant with a friend's son on Friday.
"I have a corporate job with a lot of pressure," said Dimon, who manages the foundry and maintenance department at Penn-Union Corp. in Edinboro. "Lake Pleasant is very pristine. There are bald eagles down there. Getting a boat out on the water is my relief."
Dimon serves what he catches at family fish fries. "I have a grandchild who won't eat any fish but 'Papa's bluegill,'" Dimon said.
More families will enjoy that kind of quality time Monday and again during a second Fish for Free Day on Labor Day.
"It gets a good response every year, especially on holidays, when family and relatives come in from out of state. You don't have to worry about getting them a fishing license," Edwards said.
Annual Fish for Free Days ultimately boost Pennsylvania tourism and programs managed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission when new anglers buy licenses and continue to fish, Edwards said.
"Most of our operating funds come from fishing licenses and boat registrations," Edwards said. "Fish for Free Days, by encouraging people to fish, helps us continue to do what we do."
There's another, more immediate bonus each Fish for Free Day, Edwards said.
"There's no better reward than seeing a little kid catching his first-ever fish," he said.