When people recall some of their favorite memories, sometimes they involve blue skies, warm breezes, temperate lake water and a few lunker fish.
Maybe the fish aren’t even what made the memories great; maybe it was the company in the boat on those days — a father-son outing or an afternoon of fishing with a best friend.
The Chisago County Chapter of Let’s Go Fishing is in the business of making those kind of treasured memories.
Let’s Go Fishing Board Member Tom Kinning explained the program last week and noted Let’s Go Fishing is seeking volunteers.
“We’re always looking for more people,” Let’s Go Fishing volunteer Rick Olseen said.
Kinning said the North Branch chapter has been operating since 2005, and founder Joe Holm and his wife Carolyn got the program started in Willmar in 2002.
The program focuses on “letting seniors and others experience the joy and freedom of being out on the water to fish or just enjoy the beauty of Minnesota’s lakes, all at no cost,” according to information on the Let’s Go Fishing website.
“If a group of people just wants to go out for a boat ride and not go fishing, we’ll do that, too,” Olseen said.
Kinning said all the Let’s Go Fishing chapters in the state have specially designed pontoons that are wheelchair accessible, and volunteers take seniors and other groups out on area lakes throughout the summer, starting in June, for two-hour fishing excursions.
Kinning said area nursing homes often book fishing trips, but the Chisago County chapter also has people come from the metro area because they enjoy the “country” atmosphere.
Right now, the Chisago County Chapter has 38 volunteers, but they could use more because there’s a high demand for the trips.
There has to be a captain and a first mate on every excursion, and on days when the weather is good, there are usually four trips a day, Monday through Friday, and some on weekends.
Kinning estimated they do 600-700 fishing excursions every year.
Providing those experiences costs money, and much of the money for this year’s trips was raised at the Let’s Go Fishing waffle breakfast May 3 at Main Street Church.
More money will be raised when the organization sets up its brat stand at North Branch County Market in July.
Kinning said the trips are often as enjoyable for the volunteers as they are for the people who are fishing.
“(Volunteer) Jenny Johnson takes out people from group homes, and there was this one individual there who never talked,” Kinning said. “He had a stroke — couldn’t talk, couldn’t fish. Jenny doesn’t take no for an answer. She put a rod in his hand and she helped him.
“He caught a fish and he said, ‘Good time.’ Those were the first words in four years that he had spoken. That’s what we hear. That’s what keeps volunteers coming back.”
Those who would like to volunteer with Let’s Go Fishing can call 651-402-5960. For more information on the program, visit www.lgfws.com.