The Itasca County chapter of Let’s Go Fishing With Seniors is opening its 2021 season for cruises and fishing trips this month.
In the Land of 1,000 Lakes, being on the water is a big part of our life. For seniors who are no longer able to enjoy the lakes due to a wide variety of reasons, Let’s Go Fishing offers our seniors a true enrichment to their lives.
Formed in 2007, the Itasca affiliate’s growth over the years has made an impact for hundreds of people. Let’s Go Fishing began in Willmar, Minnesota in 2002 by Joe Holm with his wife Carolyn, whose dream was to help enrich the lives of senior citizens. With fond memories of growing up with a fishing pole and always having a heart for seniors and an undying passion for the water, Joe wanted to create an organization that would provide fishing and boating outings to seniors. The first chapter was formed with the help of friends that shared his passion for helping people and loved the water. Now, there are 17 chapters in Minnesota and Wisconsin and the program has served more than 180,000 people.
See LGFWS, page 8
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The Itasca chapter takes an average of 130 excursions a year. In May, the boat takes school groups out on area lakes. From June through September groups, organizations and families can schedule trips Monday through Friday. All trips are two hours long and on Pokegama Lake. The minimum for each trip is four people with a maximum of 10 (maximum of two wheelchairs).
As Itasca Let’s Go Fishing Captain Dave Roerick explained, the chapter provides participants with life jackets, fishing gear and even treats.
Let’s Go Fishing Itasca is all about volunteering. They currently have more than 30 volunteers trained and ready to take seniors fishing or cruising on area lakes. And, like Captain Roerick, chapter leadership is also all-volunteer.
Those with knowledge to operate a pontoon, can be part of a two-person team who can take seniors on outings. There will always be a minimum of two adult volunteers on each pontoon – one to captain the watercraft, the other to assist. Volunteers only need to be over 18 and be able to assist seniors on the pontoon. To be a captain you must be over 24. Both the captain and first mate receive training, the captain receiving more.
Let’s Go Fishing provides both organizational training and on-the-water training for volunteers. They encourage husband-wife, father-son, mother-daughter, etc. teams to volunteer as well as individuals who just love the water and fishing.
At this time, Roerick said they are in need of captains, volunteers and donations of gas and bait.
“This program really makes a difference in the lives of seniors who haven’t been fishing before or in a long time or haven’t been in a boat before. It’s also nice that it’s handicapped accessible,” commented Itasca Let’s Go Fishing supporter Rick Fannin. “And the volunteers - I can’t say enough about them; they’re a great group of people. Everyone comes back from a trip with a smile on their face.”
Fannin is an employee of Minnesota Power who was the recipient of the company’s Don Shippar Community Service Award this year. With this award, Fannin received $2,000 to donate to the organization of his choice and Fannin chose to give to Let’s Go Fishing.
To schedule an excursion or sign-up to volunteer, visit itasca.lgfws.com or call (218) 256-7958.