Happy Day Fishing Camp: ‘We are having more fun than seniors should have’
COLUMBUS TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Married for 51 years, Ron and Donna Stahl often took young people fishing at the ponds on their 150-acre property in Columbus Township.
But about two years ago, they began upgrading their facilities to host larger groups and improve the quality of the experience.
“We get them hooked on fishing because they catch a lot of fish with us,” said Ron Stahl, 73.
But the kids aren’t the only ones having a good time.
“We are having more fun than seniors should have,” said Donna Stahl, 71.
Happy Day Fishing Camp offers free fishing excursions to children with special circumstances. This could mean foster kids, children with special needs or children who are missing a parent. They also open their property to church, educational and other groups.
Over the past two years, the Stahls built docks, a sea wall, bait shack and wheelchair accessible concrete paths and ramps. The property boasts five lakes named after each of the Stahls’ five grandchildren – Jansen, Jeremy, Abigail, Rachel and Caleb. The water varies in depth between 20 and 40 feet and is stocked with game fish including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish.
They switched from using small rowboats to larger vessels. The boats are old, but the kids don’t care, Ron Stahl told The Times Herald.
In the center are two small cabins that can be used for meals and demonstrations. Not far off is a bait shack stocked with fishing rods, life jackets and worms. Visitors can fillet their own fish at the cleaning station and get water from an on-site well. Fish can be cooked at the camp’s fire pit. A bell hung near the cabin is used to call the kids for lunch.
The couple hosts about one group per week. In 2018, they started the season in June, but Ron Stahl said they could start in May next year.
Ron Stahl said he doesn’t like to accept cash donations and that the family is committed to building up the property themselves. However, he has accepted donations of equipment, such as fishing rods.
Starting Sept. 1, they mostly stop the fishing expeditions until the weather warms up. But as hunting season comes, they open the property up to veterans groups for hunting.
Ron and Donna Stahl said they’re thankful to God for the blessings in their life. The fishing oasis is one of those blessings, and they said they don’t want to keep it to themselves.
“Not to share it would be a crime, we feel,” Donna Stahl said.