“You can't do that. You're just going to lose money. Get a real job.” This is what Bob Haberkorn heard when he decided to open his own business. Fishing is Bob’s life, but for most, it is a hobby that they wish they could make a living off. 

Bob opened Riverside Bait and Tackle in 1998 with the guidance of his wife Connie Haberkorn. At the time of opening, Bob was unsure and skeptical about everything, but with a wife who wanted him to do what made him happy, he opened Riverside Bait and Tackle. 

When Bob started, he was only using set lines. Set lines have 100 hooks on them and cost about $70 to build. They are a long line with hooks every couple of feet. These are not easy to use and are very time-consuming. Bob worked with set lines for Seven years before he upgraded to hoop nets.

Three years into his journey, Bob was unable to keep fish in his freezers. “The quality of the fish I was selling was unmatched; no one [else] wanted to take the time to trim and clean it the right way,” said Bob. “I was the only place that people could get quality fish from.”

Bob could not keep up with the demand. As a result, he had to make a huge choice: start full-time as a business owner or keep his 9-5 job. Bob knew that he had something going and was building himself a good reputation, so he stuck to it. When Bob made the choice to go full time he knew he had to catch more fish more efficiently.

Now, going into his seventh year, he has started to experiment with hoop nets. A hoop net in 2005 was 40 dollars, and he started with four. Hoop nets are similar to a very large minnow trap used to catch catfish. These are much different than set lines, and it takes time to learn how to use them. With the experience that he gained from setlines, Bob was able to pick up on it fast.

Hoop nets changed his business and how much business he was able to receive. Bob caught 65% more fish with hoop nets. This helped him in a huge way because he was able to sell more fish and make more money to better his business and buy more hoop nets. Bob needed a place to clean and sell all the fish that he was catching, so he built an addition to his house for $22,000. By building this, Bob was able to be more productive and have a more efficient cleaning process.

Bob was starting to build a name for himself around the area for the quality of his fish. Bob was catching hundreds of pounds of fish, but could not keep it in stock. His name was spreading, and people from all over wanted to get his fish. People would come and ask for Bob, but one day someone came and asked his wife Connie where Catfish Bob was. This nickname that a customer 10 years ago called him is now the name that he is known by; Catfish Bob was doing something that he loved, and he had literally made a name for himself doing it. 

In the last two years, Catfish Bob has scaled back his business and is not catching nearly as many fish. Bob said, “It's very hard on your body.” Bob had also lost some of the help that he was receiving from family workers. He went back to working a full-time job and fishing on the side. 

When Bob was at the peak of his business, he had 120 hoop nets and 40 set lines with 4,000 hooks. He wishes that he could keep fishing full-time and working for himself. Bob said that he could have taken people out on his boat and given them tours, and he could have opened a restaurant and sold the fresh fish that he was catching. Bob swayed away from these ideas because he had enough on his plate to catch fish and fulfill orders. Bob hopes that someone else will get into commercial fishing and expand it in ways that he did not. He knows that it is a very high start-up cost and can be a major commitment. Bob’s advice to someone trying to start commercial fishing is to start small and build a good name for yourself. Bob has chosen to decline the business to a more manageable rate for a single person.