SANDPOINT — Some day, Max Solis is quick to tell you, he is going to travel the country and fish for a living.
So it’s no surprise that when the 8-year-old was surprised with fishing gear and several hundred dollars in cash donations to replace his tackle box stolen last week, he was at Sand Creek in his favorite spot trying to catch a bass.
“Hey Dad, there are more sinkers and redds and …” an excited Max said, his voice trailing off as he dropped to his knees to dig through the boxes.
Item by item, Max pulled the lures out to examine his new treasures.
“Oh look, crawdads!” he said, pulling one from its plastic to show how the lure would act in the water to tempt a fish.
Donations poured in from around the region, with poles, rods, reels, lures, good wishes and cold cash from Kootenai benefactors, after folks learned someone had taken the dedicated angler’s neon green tackle box from its spot along the stairs on the east side of Sand Creek last Thursday.
Max had left the box by the steps leading up to the Cedar Street Bridge while he ran across to the western bank to try his luck there. When he ran back 10 minutes later, the box, packed full of gear and lures collected over the past several years from presents to treasures found as part of his Lucky Tackle Box subscription, was gone.
After Max told his dad, Junior Solis, who works at his shop on the Cedar Street Bridge, the pair searched along the creek on both sides of the banks but had no luck. Junior Solis turned to social media, posting a message asking people to keep an eye out for his son’s treasured tackle box.
Word quickly spread with stories appearing in the Bonner County Daily Bee and Coeur d’Alene Press. And it’s through those stories, shared on the Daily Bee’s Facebook page, that Val Olson discovered the owner of the neon green tackle box she’d found tucked up among the pilings under the bridge on the opposite shore from where Max had left it.
“Max, I’m super glad to give you your box back,” said Olson, who had on a whim decided to go looking under the pilings, something she hadn’t done since high school. “I was over there exploring when I saw this bright green thing that caught my eye. I went over and there it was.”
While the box was broken and some of the lures and gear missing, the rest had been scattered around the ground where the box had been dumped. Olson picked the gear up, put it back in the box and took it home.
“I had no idea what it was until I saw the post on Facebook through the Daily Bee site. That was when I went, ‘Oh, this belongs to Max,’” she said. Olson quickly messaged Junior Solis to tell him of her discovery and make arrangements to get everything back to the young angler.
When he learned his tackle box had been found, Max was ecstatic. “I was super happy that someone found it for me and was giving it back to me,” he added.
Then a special delivery from scores of Coeur d’Alene-area donors arrived Thursday afternoon, personally delivered by Clint Schroeder, North Idaho regional publisher for Hagadone Newspapers. The fish had officially run out of luck.
Already a wealth of fishing knowledge, Max explored his new treasures, explaining what each was and how they worked to nab an unwary fish.
“I love fishing,” he said. “I’m actually going to be a fish expert one day. I’m going to have a job for it.”
In fact, as soon as Max turns 14, he has a standing offer to be a fish guide at Willow Bay, located on the Pend Oreille River across from Laclede, helping teach fishing to other young anglers.
“I’ll be teaching kids how to fish, which is just what I want,” he said.
Max, who has been fishing since he was 2, said he’s always loved the sport and can’t remember a time when he didn’t love to spend as much time as he can fishing.
“My favorite thing about fishing is that I might not catch something, or I might catch something,” he said. “If I do, that’s good luck. And if I don’t, that’s OK. I can catch one another day.”
While he likes catching crappie, the first kind he caught, his favorite target is bass “because they have a really good fight,” added Max, his lucky hook glinting in the sun from its perch on the bill of his cap.
Seeing the response from the North Idaho community — and being able to surprise Max with gifts from his fellow anglers and supporters — was wonderful and humbling, Schroeder said.
“In a time when truly positive news is sometimes hard to find, stories like this restore my faith in humanity,” Schroeder said. “Our new friend Max can now continue to pursue his dream of becoming a professional angler. More importantly, at 8 years old, Max’s hometown has proven to him that while bad things can happen to good people, kindness always wins.”
Caroline Lobsinger can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @CarolDailyBee.