Weather Forecast


Let’s Go Fishing for young people too: Starts season by hosting local fourth graders

Willmar fourth-grader Ridwan Madey hesitates before she grabs her just-caught sunfish to return it to the waters of Green Lake. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

SPICER — “Get on, grab a life vest and we’ll see what happens here,’’ said Roger Benson.

One-by-one, another group of fourth-graders from Willmar Public Schools boarded a Let’s Go Fishing pontoon on Wednesday and found out what happens here.

“I got one,’’ became the mantra for the morning, as the students hoisted sunfish from the sun-splashed waters.

The Willmar chapter of Let’s Go Fishing launched its 2014 season in a big way on Tuesday and Wednesday, hosting 350 fourth-graders from the Roosevelt and Kennedy Elementary Schools on Green Lake in Spicer. They also hosted 38 fourth-graders from the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa schools.

Roger Benson, starting his ninth year with the chapter, had lined up five pontoons and the services of more than a dozen volunteers to join the students and their teachers on the water. Some 92 adults including teachers participated.

Let’s Go Fishing focuses on seniors by hosting them on fishing and boating excursions, but it also serves youths and others when possible. The excursions for seniors begin in June. The summer is roughly two-thirds booked already, according to Benson.

Since its start 13 years ago, Let’s Go Fishing has served over 110,000 people across the state. There are 31 chapters served by 2,200 volunteers.

“Fantastic volunteers’’ is how Benson describes those making possible the Willmar chapter’s outings. He reserves similar praise for the support the local community has offered Let’s Go Fishing. “We’ve gotten so much community support.’’

Let’s Go Fishing will also be seeing state grant funding this year which will help it expand its role in the state, according to Joe Holm, founder and presidents of the non-profit organization.

Let’s Go Fishing’s role was easy to see on Green Lake. “Very excited about this,’’ said Willmar fourth grade instructor Donna Hedlof of her students as the trip started.

Once on the water, volunteers like Paula Ziems baited hooks and offered advice to the young anglers.

For some, this was their first time ever fishing.

This season is Ziems first try as a Let’s Go Fishing volunteer.

“I love fishing,’’ said Ziems. “I definitely knew I would love it,’’ she said of volunteering with Let’s Go Fishing.

The fishing was mixed during the two days the fleet of pontoons was out, with sunfish, bass and even a couple of nice-sized northerns boated during the two days.

Holm said that Let’s Go Fishing is always eager to introduce young people to the outdoors. So many young people spend their time indoors occupied with electronics today. “It becomes more important now than ever before to keep our young people active, outdoors (in) a healthy environment,’’ he said.

It is no less important for seniors. Let’s Go Fishing has served seniors up to 107 years of age. The specially-designed pontoon boats make it possible to host seniors with physical limitations that have kept them from enjoying the water.

“It has brought so much joy and happiness,’’ said Holm. It’s hard to describe sometimes, but he’s seen it enough times to know. There’s something special — a quality of life — that comes with being able to enjoy time on the water, he said.

“You hear people say ‘my body never hurts when I’m out on the water,’’’ said Holm. “It gets one’s mind on moving forward and thinking forward rather than in the present and the past.’’

The fourth-graders fishing adventure on Green Lake was part of a field trip to Spicer.  It included lessons about the aquatic environment offered on shore in Saulsbury Beach by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries crew in Spicer

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335